Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Plumping Your Book's Middle

We write, we create, we get those words up on the screen, moving right along, then, suddenly, there's a sag, a drop in the action, a slowing of pace.  You've hit the middle of the book doldrums.  You know the ending, you can see it in your mind's eye, but you have this slump to get through, to repair, to make it so it engrosses your reader as well as yourself.

What to do?

Well there are a whole host of reasons why the middle of your manuscript may drag, sag and trip you up.  But, for this post, let's just talk about characters.

They need to have great traits, but they need to vary.  If you have a heroine who's strong on every front, who rises to every occasion, who always comes out on top - it can get kind of boring.  If you have a hero who's out for adventure, who's ever resourceful, who can face any adversity and still triumph, same thing. 

Remember Indiana Jones and his revulsion of snakes?  How about a vapire hunter who fights by night, then goes home and cries because those monsters she's dispatched were once human and she spends her days (when not asleep) trying to find out their previous identities?

Try making your heroine strong and forceful in public, but quiet, a bookworm in her private hours.  She could be aggressive in business, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but reticent and shy when it comes to romance. 

The same goes for your villains.  If they're pitch black all the time they become uninteresintng.  The reader is reduced to waitng for what evil the guy or woman will next commit.  Maybe  he could be an evil, rotten so-in-so, but never misses his kid's baseball game - and that kid is a girl. 

Create multifaceted characters and you hand yourself the keys to multifacted plots.  The more your develop your characters, give them real and sustainable quirks to their personalities the more subplots will surface and the more your readers will look for your books and keep turning the pages.

Another thing to think about with your characters, is to try to put them into situations where they may have to do something they would never imagine themselves doing.  Something totally at odds with their personality.  If your character is a totally non-violent geek, give him or her a reason that's far bigger than he is that for this time he has to resort to violence.  Create that inner struggle, that desperate search for alternatives and the final acceptance of what he has to do. It will add tension, suspense and, yes, yet again, keep your readers turning those pages.

Nobody is the same all the time.  Everyone faces extenuating circumstances.  Work with it.  Develop it and your book will be a stand out.

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