July 30th, 2015

BrainUnderRepair

Writing Excuses 10.30: Q&A on Middles, with Marie Brennan

Writing Excuses 10.30: Q&A on Middles, with Marie Brennan

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2015/07/26/writing-excuses-10-30-qa-on-middles-with-marie-brennan/

Q&A Summary:
Q: How do you prevent tedium in the middle bits without something exploding every other chapter?
A: Discovery of new things. Make the characters care about things, and make it clear to the reader why these are important. Impressive failures!
Q: In short fiction, how do you prevent try-fail cycles from resolving too quickly without adding a ton more words? Do you use yes-but, no-and for this?
A: Yes. Don't cram them in, and make your characters try harder. Try-fail should not simply reset. Keep progressing, use yes-but to make variations and complications, and watch out for Brandoning your story.
Q: If Act 2 adds a lot more to the story, new POV characters, new subplots, new locations, etc., how do you spread out the introduction of these elements so that it's not too jarring to the reader?
A: Beware of adding new POVs too late in the story. Finish a subplot, then add a character. Make sure adding the new elements is natural, not forced. Foreshadow, and let us know that new things are coming (signposts!). Don't just add POVs, subplots, and locations and never finish! Beware kudzu plots.
Q: How do I weave subplots in without them turning into outright side quests?
A: Subplots for secondary characters should not have higher stakes or more interest than the main story. Look at how the subplots intersect with the main story and the other characters. Watch for subplots, side quests, that do nothing except make the characters jump through a flaming hoop. At the end of the side quest, something should have changed! Side quests, like ties or shoes, should contrast or complement the main suit.
Q: Especially in a longer story, how important are breather chapters that ease the tension?
A: Check your genre and pacing. Fast-paced, few, slower, maybe. Don't let the tension go, just vary the tension and texture.
Q: Do you have any interesting methods for organizing, developing, and interweaving plot and subplot threads? Even after the brainstorming, outlining, prewriting, how much do you weave in your head versus what you write in your outline notes?
A: Proprioception. When you get to the end, and a character is doing something wrong, there may be a hole in the middle. Try practicing by writing a single thread, then adding threads.
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[Howard] Okay. Well, Michael, thank you for the great question. We are out of time. I've got an exercise for you that should take... Not just you, Michael. All of our listeners. From our month on middles to next month on pacing. I call this murdering the middle darling. You've worked your way through the middle. Go back into it, and remove an element from the entire middle, and see how that changes the read of things. See if that was really necessary to get you to the ending. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. The easiest way to find out is to kill it. So, you're out of excuses. Now go write.
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