15 July 2014

How to Turn a Lackluster Middle into Page-turning Excitement

A writer revising the rough draft of a novel stalls in the middle where he finds some quirky, secondary characters, one of whom is a potential "romance plot" suitor, a couple of magical and mystical settings, several subplots of enchantment, various minor characters and… not much excitement. Appraising the long, dull corridor spanning the entire Middle, the writer despairs both at how to keep his revision ideas organized and, more importantly, how to amp up the tension and excitement.

Each secondary character and setting, subplot and minor character holds the potential for tension and excitement especially when paired against what the protagonist wants. This takes stepping back from the rough draft to dig deeper into the other characters individually, discovering their importance to the overall meaning of the story beyond helping the protagonist get to where she needs to go and devising goals and aspirations that interfere with the protagonist's goals and aspirations. This means you need to get to know these other characters as well as you know your protagonist.

In the rough draft, these secondary and minor cardboard characters served you while writing the protagonist's storyline. Now, in the revision, is their time to shine. Antagonists rule the middle and are there to teach the protagonist what she needs to know in order to prevail at the climax at the end. This learning is not easy and is fraught with dangerous and often unkind challenges.

Fill out a Character Profile for each character, defining goals in direct opposition to what the protagonist wants while also mirroring traits the protagonist is oblivious of and needs to confront and overcome over the course of the entire story.

(For more: Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers and PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month video series.)