Reblahg — Middles

Back when the world was young, I had what I called a weblahg, whereon I rambled about this, that, and the other thing. Then people convinced me I needed to be more professional, so I set up this blog and closed down the blahg. And what do I do on this professional site?

Well, I ramble about this, that, and the other thing.

The old weblahg is still there, holding quantities of nonsense, including my fanfic, but also including some usable stuff. Today, for instance, I’m going to reblog a post I did back in 2009 on writing middles.

No, not mine. I wonder if everybody is reading the same stuff I am–how-to blogs about writing the middles of books. People seem to have a lot of trouble with writing middles, and are either looking for help or providing help for others. So I’ll help, too. Yeah, sure I will.

Beginnings and ends are fairly easy to think of. The trouble starts and stuff happens and the trouble ends one way or another. I remember asking my mother what happened on an action-adventure show we always watched and that I missed one week. “The bad guys caught them and locked them up, but they got away and caught the bad guys.” Yeah, thanks, Mom–That’s what happened every week. The fun part was HOW THEY DID IT, and that’s the part she left out. And that’s the middle part.

The MIDDLE of my fantasy, SAGE.
The MIDDLE of my fantasy, SAGE.

I used to have…. I was going to say that I used to have trouble with the middles of books, but that’s not entirely true. When I didn’t quit when I got to the middle, THEN I had trouble with the middles of books. It isn’t that I couldn’t come up with anything to have happen, it’s that there were too many possibilities. You know–because of quantum, as Terry Pratchett would say. Every action and every character provides endless possibilities for moving the plot in one direction or another. If THIS happens to HIM, his reaction might be THIS or it could be THIS or, if SHE is watching, it could be THAT….

So I started outlining. Yeah, I know–mechanical, restrictive, inorganic…. But it’s a framework I need. I often have the vaguest idea of where I want my story to end. If I don’t pin it down somewhat, the whole book just flaps around like a picnic blanket in a high wind. I start out with the opening situation, which is usually what I have in mind first (don’t laugh–some people start with the outcome, some with the climax). Then I write down a very general ending of ways the situation can be resolved. Then I put the turning points in place–I don’t mean specifics, either, I mean the words “turning point”. Then, as I write the first part of the book, I think about what’s going on, who it’s happening to, and how to arrange meetings, conversations and events to lead the main character to make an important, pivotal decision. That decision automatically whithers all other possibilities, which is sad, but that’s quantum

for you.

The job of the writer is not choosing what to put in, but what to leave out.


A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write a very brief story, with about six sentences. The first sentence sets up the character and situation, the last sentence resolves it. The other four are the Middle. Do with them what you will. “Once upon a time, there was a princess who was as good as she was beautiful. And she lived happily ever after.” That’s nice, but it’s the middle that makes the story.


I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Reblahg — Middles

  1. Jane

    August 20, 2013 at 9:30am

    Middles…ICK, I hate mine…
    Oh, wait, middles of BOOKS!
    Book middles can be so much fun. It’s where you get to the really outrageous stuff. Better be wearing your spurs and chaps, though. It can be a bumpy ride!
    I think your remarks are extremely apopos. And well-said. I think they doubly apply to trilogies and such. The middle book can really suffer sometimes. (Not yours, of course.) It’s hard to keep the tone going without repeating all the stuff in the first book and making a reader wonder why they read that one at all, or everything comes from nowhere, and you can’t figure out why the author didn’t just stop at one, longer book.
    In a way, I suppose, writing series books could very well present all the problems of wiritng any sort of middle. Hmm.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 20, 2013 at 9:35am

      ‘Course, SAGE really IS one, longer book. A series, I think, needs for each book to be self-contained while connecting to a longer arc. Or, you know, not. The Harry Dresden series changes and has a dynamic that runs through the books. Other series don’t, much. The Nero Wolfe mysteries are fairly interchangeable as far as character or situation shifts go.

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