Writing The Middle: Cue the Ominous Music.

January 17, 2011

I’m in the middle of my novel and it’s a bit of a scary thing.

Though I’ve a point of departure (my beginning) and a destination in mind (my end), in between I’ve got great, murky swaths of The Unknown to traverse through.

I am in The Middle a.k.a. The Great Unknown.

Generally, I am using a previous scene to build the current scene and thus I am inching my way slowly forward through the dark. Sort of like building a bridge across a chasm with tiny Lego bricks. Little bit by little bit, I am stretching my way from Beginning to End–

And of course I am trying to ratchet up the tension with each small step forward (cue the Ominous Music).

It makes for an unnerving experience.

Because anything could happen. They’re sitting in a room and they could talk or they could fight or they could kiss.

Or a cat could jump out from a closet and scare them or they could hear a scream or they could fall asleep because their tea was drugged.

Or they could decide to eat oysters or ham or white soup or they could go for a walk.

Or they could discover the Professor stabbed in the back, slouched over a potted fern.

My characters and I are constantly in the present moment, never knowing what the next moment (or Lego brick) is until it appears like magic. Poof!

(Sort of like real life, I guess.)

Writer, is this your experience of The Middle? Or is it more of a Happy Place for you?

Personally, I’m finding it pretty freaky!


  1. Hi, Julie

    This is EXACTLY my experience. Well put.

    It is not a happy place at the moment, but I am pushing my way through all the self-doubt and insecurities.

    Good luck to you.

  2. Thank you! I was wondering if I was the only one…

    I know some writers have very precise outlines aka maps that guide them along thru the middle better than any GPS system…but not me!

    I guess I like to live dangerously! 🙂

    Thanks for dropping by!

    Julie J.

  3. Yes, and no. My novel is a rather violent fantasy. If I get bored, I start another fight. But…

    Each and every fight, each and every scene, has to move things forward, and each scene is actually filling in bits of back story. Without explaining the bits of back story.

    The next thing they do is visit the Travelers Temple as they start off on a journey. The Travelers Temple is based in part on a dig that the UK archaeological show Time Team did a year or two back (we get Time Team on TV Ontario, our educational station). And it’s based in part on the unknown (to the reader) back story. The idea being that there’s a ton of stuff that the reader doesn’t know about, bits of which keep popping into view.

    In my case the center of the novel isn’t going to sink me. It’s going to be the plot and background, both of which are getting so complicated I’m searching for some sort of database program, or maybe a desktop wiki, to keep my notes in.

    But I can see where you are. Yes, it’s hard to tell what the characters are going to do next sometimes. In my case it’s not so bad, because there are severe limitations in what they can do. They don’t know who the real baddy is, and won’t find out until 3/4 of the way through volume three, and nor will the reader, because Mr. Nasty doesn’t appear until that point. But to get that much control, I had to limit things a lot. They literally don’t have any choice about some of their actions, i.e. you get attacked, you fight back.

    If your characters are running freer, you could have some real fun. Who knows, they might steal a blue police box from the side of the road…


    • Yes, I can see how having more limited plot circumstance will narrow the choices available to the characters. Makes it a bit easier to see where you are going (though perhaps not easier overall…sounds like you have a lot of detail to keep track of!)

      Having ‘freer’ characters can be fun and it can also be a little wild too because its like we’re all on a road trip and just randomly choosing left or right at each intersection we come to.

      Thanks for dropping by!
      PS. Like the comment of the blue police box. 🙂

      • I read the NANOWRIMO book by one of the guys who started it, and he mentioned characters starting to do their own thing. As I said, mine don’t have a lot of choice so far, there’s so much stuff happening around that they don’t understand.

        But if you have freer characters, they might decide that they don’t like the plot, and invent their own, and who knows, it might be better!

        So yeah, maybe you should let them steal that blue police box… Might upset some people at BBC Wales, but who cares about them!


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