Friday, April 6, 2012

Week 14 - The Middle Bit

1 Apr - 7 Apr: Maintaining Momentum

Okay, so the beginning hooks the reader with a brilliant opening scene, and we have a wowie-kazowie, I-bet-you-didn't-see-that-coming climax and ending, so what do we do with the bit in between?

In 50 Strategies for Every Writer, Roy Peter Clark suggests writing the story around a key question -  Who dunnit?  Who will win her heart?  Will he win? etc. - and this question serves as the engine that drives the story forward using interesting and believable players.

Of course, it is suspense, borne of this key question that drives the reader forward, and different kinds of stories use different kinds of suspense; adventure stories largely use action suspense; character-driven stories may rely more on the moral implications of decisions.  (I will explore suspense further in the coming weeks when I move into the 'Toolbox').

So, between our rivetting opening and closing scenes, we know that we must incorporate mini-cliffhangers into our plot to maintain suspense.  These will generally fall at the end of chapters and keep the reader asking "what happens next?"

But what about all the other stuff?  Settings need to be described to place the story and its people in context, characters need to be developed through actions and dialogue, and, perhaps the most mundane part of all, those less interesting bits that keep the story flowing and logical, need to be written (eg. "he got out of bed, staggered to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and then it happened....."). 

The writer needs to be selective about which scenes to expand on, and which to keep brief if both writer and reader are to maintain an interest in the story.  Clark suggests incorporating a small number of 'gold coins' - dramatic or comic high points within a scene - throughout the middle section of a long piece to reward the reader (and the writer, too, perhaps), for sticking with it.

Personally, I think it is easy to become disillusioned when writing The Middle Bit; the thrill of the opening and closing scenes is gone and the hard slog of 'telling the story' is all that's left (but I'll leave the 'discipline of writing' to another day). 

For me, I try to keep in mind Gardner's insistence that a written story should read like a dream, and perhaps if I just keep writing what I see in my head, regardless of how tedious it might seem at the time, then eventually, after a bit of work, I'll produce something that reads like a dream.

Exercise 27List ten, suspenseful plot points that could be used as chapter endings for a) a romance novel, b) a thriller/suspense, and/or c) an adventure novel.

Exercise 28.  Write a simple short story as follows:  put a man up a tree, throw rocks at him, get him down.  (Taken from a Creative Writing course I completed in 2011).

Week 15 is the start of the fun stuff, that is, the Writer's Toolbox, starting with Dialogue.

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