Crafting Your Novel’s Plot And Characters To Sustain Story Momentum Throughout The Middle, by Sam Hawksmoor
I have no fear of the middle of the novel. I’m scared to death of the beginning and the end but the middle is a ledge I can regroup on, to take stock and re-energise.
Writing as someone who has taught screenwriting for twenty years, the mantra is always beginning, middle and end, with each part having its own beginning, middle and end… That all said, knowing where the mid-point is, in terms of plot development, can be problematic. In a two-parter the midpoint is the end of part one, but to be honest I am not sure that I know where the mid-point of The Repossession is – perhaps about 60% in. At the point where Genie is done for and Rian knows he’s lost her. That feels right. It’s an emotional moment where the gravity shifts and the story takes a new direction. In The Hunting I know exactly where the middle is – a point where the characters know they can’t just keep on running. They have to turn around and face the enemy. They have no idea how they will do that – but again it’s the emotional shift that takes place.
Sometimes you have to cut scenes that you like because, in the editing process, you can see that they detract from the main story. You can’t see this when you are writing it, and it might well be a good developmental scene, but if it doesn’t move the narrative forward you don’t want to risk a reader putting it down. Backstory information is quite often material that eventually goes. (You can always put it on the website). Your main protagonist’s story is where the attention must be. I had a nice developmental scene in book; one with Genie remembering her Grandma (whose death has caused her to be locked up in her room in the first place). Nevertheless, it comes too early. Readers want to get on with the story immediately and you can’t take the risk with something cute but unnecessary.
YA fiction is filled with characters all fighting for the limelight. When teaching, I’d tell my students to make a list for each main character: how they live, what they eat what they read or listen to, and what they like or dislike, but I’m afraid it’s a case of do as I say not as I do, as I tend to keep all that in my head. I do however form a deep mental image of my characters (especially when they are based upon someone I know) and try my best to differentiate between each person, adding quirks and tics to find their particular voice. *Incidentally, I dislike the creative writing class thing about finding your voice. It’s a novel filled with people – you have to find twenty voices and you’d better be all of them and stay in character for each of them.
If I ever doubt I’m getting it right, I take a character out of their comfort zone. A small device will do. I might have the prettiest girl in the book trapped in a loo – a horrid messy stinky loo – and unable to get out. No one can hear her cries for help. The window is too small to climb out of and she is going to have to crawl out under the partition through all the waste to get out. Just as she finally emerges covered in wee and toilet paper, she runs into the guy she has been trying to impress. How she reacts and how he reacts will define them. The tension and desperation of the moment will cement a relationship between your reader and the character for the rest of the book. (It worked well enough in Bridget Jones’s Diary).
Sam Hawksmoor’s author website: www.samhawksmoor.com
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