Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Tia Catalina, one of my favorite redheads is visiting this week! She's sharing her solution to a common problem for writers. Give it a try to see if this approach works for you!
Take it away, Tia!
Sagging middles are the bane of every writer’s existence. While sitting at a computer can add unwanted pounds, this is not the sagging middle I’m referring to. I mean the part of your manuscript where the story starts to bog down and sag, causing the reader to lose interest.
After reading a least twenty books on pacing, I developed a short outline that I insert at the beginning of every new manuscript. Romance novels have turning points and mysteries have plot twists. By reminding myself where these belong in the manuscript, I can avoid the dreaded saggy middle.
First, let’s discuss what turning points are. Turning points are the big scenes that create a change in the direction of the plot by changing the direction of the main character’s emotions. Before the story begins, the character has already made a core decision about her life. For example, the heroine decided she did not want to be a stay-at-home mom like her mother because her father died suddenly, leaving the family in dire straits. She has decided her career will come first and she will never have children. The first few pages should show the reader what the worst possible thing that could happen to the main character is. For our character, the worst possible thing might be meeting a single father who she finds attractive. The main character will think she has succeeded in staying her emotional course, but at the first turning point, she will have a change in her emotions. Maybe she feels things will work out if she just goes out with single dad on Friday night. He is cute, but she can date him without meeting the kid. The second turning point will involve some sort of intimacy and reversal. Things will start going wrong at this point. Main character is on a date with single dad when he gets a call that the kid has fallen and broken a wrist. They rush to hospital and the pitiful little cherub appeals to her for comfort. The third turning point will show her basic nature/core decisions have made things worse. Single dad and kid have fallen in love with her, but she freaks and decides to dump them before she gets too involved. Everyone is hurt and upset. This will set up the black moment where all hope is lost and there is no resolution in sight. She doesn’t want a family—the family wants her in their lives. The main character’s basic nature has forced them into this situation. No one can win.
Next, let’s discuss the plot twists. If you are writing romance only, these do not need to be included. Simply put, a plot twist is an unexpected element in the plot. These occur at approximately the same time as the turning points. I like to do the turning points first because it engages the reader with the character before disaster occurs with the plot twist. It is important to have the reader empathize with the characters so they can pull for them to succeed. The final plot twist is the resolution to the mystery.
¼ way through
Basic nature/core decision in play
½ way through
¾ way through-Resolution
Everything goes wrong
Thanks so much for sharing, Tia! What do you think, writers? Is this a method that might put some muscle into a sagging middle for you? I'm pulling out the WIP that's been giving me fits and trying it out!
She and her husband are residents of central Indiana where they enjoy volunteering for the various sporting events held in Indianapolis. Tia is an NFL, NBA and WNBA fan, spending many unrecoverable hours tailgating. Other talents include cooking and entertaining.
TIA CATALINA BOOKS, WHERE HUMOR AND SUSPENSE FALL IN LOVE
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Romance...With A Kick!