Talk about life imitating art! Sagging middles describes it all. Some of you, of a certain age, are nodding in agreement. Others are scratching their heads. Do that while you have the hair to scratch.
I live in south central Florida. Think all of the heat, none of the breeze. Since sometime in early June our temps have been flirting with 100 degrees and our real feel, even on relatively cool 90 degree days, have been well over 100. I’m also a runner. Not a competitive one, but one who ties on running shoes when the muse deserts.
This morning, at 8 AM, trying to think up a topic for this blog, I laced up my running shoes in 87 degree temperatures. To compensate for the increased heat, I’d recently cut my runs from five miles to three. I ran the first mile and started the second. Heat indexes were now topping the 100-degree mark. You see where I’m headed? Mile two, the middle mile. There I was, forcing one foot in front of the other thinking, I’ll never make it. My hamstring hurts. Is that a pain in my knee? I should stop. That’s when my watch chimed that I’d finished the second mile and was on the home stretch. The last mile. Energy flowed again. Heck, anyone can run a mile! And I had my topic.
Those dreaded middles. Of runs, of age, of stories. Middles are where all the action really happens. The first part of life, and runs, and stories is the set up. The inciting incidents. The plans for attack. We don’t yet know exactly what’s going to happen, but we sure do have the conflict perking. We’ve met a lot of the players. Some will stay the course. Others will fall by the wayside. We have our basic story. Mystery, romance, sci fi, pure literary it’s all in the first few chapters. Now we are in for the longer jog. It’s the middle of the tale. The writer’s job is to move it along. Make it a page turner. Keep the reader caring while we lay out the crises surrounding the protagonist and set the path for the ultimate resolution.
Kind of like life, or a run, there’s a lot of ground to cover in the middle. Some of it is a slow, painful slog that no one likes to read. Other bits serve to define the character, the antagonist, and the villain. Necessary stuff to share, but the middle of a book takes up danged near three quarters of the word real estate. It’s a balancing act for the writer. Make it interesting. Impart important information, keep the action and the timeline solid. Write, edit, cut, write, edit, cut, polish. In the middle every word has to count. It’s how the end resolves.
The payoff? Emerging from the middle with a story that shines. Some writers and readers find the middle the most enticing part of any story. It’s where the action happens, the meat between the bread. Others love the end. They’ve paid attention throughout the middle and followed the story but now, they are eager for finish line. No more build up. This is a sprint. The last eighth or so of the story wraps up all that went before and there’s comfort drawn from the carefully crafted lead up and the satisfying finale.
What kind of a reader/writer are you? Do you crave the building conflict of the middle or do you long for the final scene?
Kait loves to hear from fans and critics, check out her website at www.kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.