Middle Magic

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A mirror moment makes middle magic. Say that 10x fast. Now that you’re awake let’s talk about the best middles.

I hear authors talk sometimes about the beginning was always clear to them, or the first idea they had was how the book should end. Readers talk about the best beginnings and even more so the best endings. The poor middles get neglected.

middle-cover-w003aborderI, myself, hadn’t given much thought to middles until I read Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell and regret that I hadn’t paid more attention sooner. I recommend purchasing this short writer’s help book and really any by James Scott Bell (Check out Voice). He is fantastic.

Bell talks about the golden triangle in which the top point is the mirror moment, the character reflection moment that comes between the beginning pre-story psychology the character had and the end character transformation. There is this mirror moment in both good character driven and plot driven stories.

In character-driven stories, the character looks at herself and wonders what kind of person she is, what she is becoming, what will she have to do to battle successfully, and is she willing to change?

In plot-driven novels the character considers the odds against him, and at this point the odds should be against him. There should be no way to go on and not face certain death: physical death, professional death, or psychological death.

In the middle grade, Doll Bones, the three friends who ran away from home realize that at this point in the story, they have to go home before they get into big trouble, but instead decide to see their adventure to the end no matter what. And in The Graveyard Book, the main character Bod reflects on himself and where he is grown up. He finally sees that he isn’t dead like the rest of the inhabitants of the graveyard. That time for him should be a long ways off.

The award winning, young adult, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe starts with, “The Different Rules of Summer: The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.” Right away we know as readers it feels like the main character doesn’t have control over his life. Ari is an angry teen. His siblings are all older and out of the house. His mother doesn’t talk to him about his brother in prison, and his dad talks nothing about his past time in the Vietnam War. It is a quiet house where Ari is lonely and doesn’t really know the truths about himself (why he is so angry) until he meets his friend Dante at the pool. The middle moment is his realization that he should live his life: “I can either think about the dreams I have about my brother or I can think about the dreams I have about Dante. Those are my choices? I think I should get a life.”

So while you are stuffing your middles this month, take a look at your favorite books, flip to the middle, and try to find the mirror moment. Bell lists quite a few from books and movies. Then I suggest you check out the middle of your own fiction and make sure you have that magic mirror moment. Or maybe if you are just starting a new novel, the middle is the place you should begin.

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