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A Case of the Middles

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Like the middle of a novel, the middle book of a series is important. We’ve all read the second book in a series that felt all too familiar or confused the bejeebers (it’s totally a word) out of us. So to help with your middle books, here are a few dos and don’ts. I’ll be referencing an old favorite the Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. (Just because there are so many middles to choose from, and she got it right!)

The Three C’s of Dos:

Cohesion: The middle of the series needs to fit the story. Familiar threads should run throughout the entire story and not get lost in the shuffle. In Harry Potter, the themes (good vs evil) and settings (Hogwarts) remained consistent. Each book had its own arc and can stand on its own, but they all flow into one cohesive story.

Character: The characters should grow and develop in the middle of a series. Characters should never be flat. Just like in the real world, trials and tribulations change us. Harry Potter doesn’t stay the same uncertain, shy kid. He grows into a strong confident wizard throughout the series, and the change doesn’t happen all at once.

Connection: The middle in a series should lead the reader through an entire story from book one to the last book. Harry Potter spends seven years fighting Voldemort. Harry faces new threats, but Voldemort is the ultimate enemy. Each book in the series gives him (and the reader) a piece of the puzzle.

The Three R’s of Don’ts:

Repeat: The middle books shouldn’t be a basic repeat of book one. Nothing’s worse than reading a book and realizing it’s the same story as book one with different names and places.

Rewind: The middle books shouldn’t completely unravel your story line. If you are a master writer, you can probably get away with manipulating time lines and twisting stories into knots. Personally, I’m not. So I don’t. No matter how you write, a story still needs a beginning, middle, and end.

Ramble: Unfortunately, some authors use the middle books as filler. It’s always easy to tell an author who never meant for one book to be a series. The middle books usually ramble all over the place. It’s like going to your mom’s house for Christmas. The goal is to keep your reader on the journey, not to visit every family member along the way.

So, if you have a case of the middles and aren’t sure where to go with it, remember these simple dos and don’ts. Never be afraid to take a note from the master of middles, JK Rowling.

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