The Magical Midpoint: From Meh to Supremely Satisfying

Art of War for Writers, by James Scott Bell

Art of War for Writers, by James Scott Bell

For a couple of months now, I’ve had this nagging feeling about my work in progress, GTT.  There’s something my main female character, Melina (Mel for short), must face and I’ve been resisting forcing her to go though that door.  Her tale is one of vengeance and the question of how she will resist the inevitable hardness that comes with a goal such as that has been quietly sitting in the back of the room, every so often raising it’s hand, wanting me to pay attention to it.

I’ll be honest.  I didn’t even want to acknowledge it because of two reasons:

  • I had no idea how to deal with it, and
  • it would mean more in depth writing.  Writing deep is hard and taxing and frankly, I’m a little tired of digging into my character’s psyche to get to the bottom of things.
Write From the Middle by James Scott Bell

Write From the Middle by James Scott Bell

Enter James Scott Bell.  You know him.  He’s the writing self-help guru who just loves to pick apart the structure of successful writing to see what makes it tick.  And boy does he pick:

My bookshelves are stuffed with craft books. I have five big binders of old Writer’s Digest magazines, underlined and indexed. There’s not an approach on “how to write” that I haven’t come across at one time or another.  The Kill Zone

Well, he’s gone and done published another craft book:  Write Your Novel From the Middle.  We all know about the midpoint of our novels but do we really really know how super important it is?  Well, Mr. Bell, after lifting the proverbial hood and tinkering with all sorts of parts hidden underneath, has come to realize that the true midpoint of a great novel or film is not a scene, but a moment within a scene.  He calls it the mirror moment.

This point in the novel is the “doorway of no return.”  It’s where the character has to make a monumental decision:  stay the way they are or make a change.  It’s the pivot which can elevate a story from meh to supremely satisfying.

Bell threw out a challenge.  Pick up any book you love and open it at the middle and see what you find.  Bet you anything that somewhere in there you find a defining moment that changes the story.  I took him up on the challenge and picked up one of my favorites and sure enough, there it was.

My current work in progress?  I’m at the 80,000 word mark with the edits (I edit in a linear fashion because that’s the only way I can tell what I’m missing), well beyond the midpoint of the novel, and for the last 20,000 I’ve known that I had to write about the hardness that my character is facing and how she’s going to deal with it. The funny thing is that once I started thinking about it as the mirror moment, everything immediately fell into place and that part practically wrote itself.  I also got a bonus out of it because I now know the legacy of Mel as well as the desires and motivations of a supporting character.

I’m going to leave you with a picture of a super duper ginormous coffee mug my dad gave me this weekend.  Like everyone else in my family, he keeps tabs on my progress and has heard all sorts of stuff from me about my ups and down with this writing thing.  This baby holds about 20 ounces of your liquid of choice.  I’m going to take it to work because I need all the help I can get to make it through the day so I can come home and play.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm and Carry On

Take care now.

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