Episode 70: (Un)stuck in the Middle with You

Mel and Abby are smack dab in the middle of the stories, and today Mel and Jennie talk about "public service announcements" in your story - not a good thing, even if you're writing nonfiction. The good news is, it's a high level problem - it means you know what your story is, and now you're working on the nuances of how to tell it.

In the middle of your story you need decisions and consequences and action at every turn - don't let your character stop idly for a smoothie (or whatever) unless it's moving the story and the characters forward. Make your reader decide whether or not to go to bed, or keep reading your story on a Sunday night at 10 pm!  

Jennie tasks Mel with recognizing over-explanation in her story - "The thing you do want in there, always - you always want to have the character's reaction and response, and how they're making meaning of something. That's what we come for - the making of the meaning of every little thing...we do always need that."

Mel gets caught summarizing and not recognizing the difference between big-story meaning and line-by-line meaning. By the time you're in the middle of the story, the set-up is done - you don't need to remind us of where we are in the story, because if you've done your job the reader is already there! We're now onto individual reactions of plot developments: What does Character X think of this? What does Character Y think of what Character Z just did? What are they feeling, what do they do because of what happens? Why does it matter? When it works, characters making meaning of plot development doesn't sound explain-y - it flows, it snaps, and the reader doesn't notice - they just keep turning the pages. 

We also talk about Chekov's gun - if the gun is on the mantle in the first act, it has to go off in the third! Don't introduce a great plot device and pay attention to it, and not use it later. Readers are smart, they pick up on things, and anticipate things - if you pique their interest in something, and are leaving breadcrumbs along the way, you've got to let them run into that cake later on. 

Stay tuned next week, where Abby discovers that her two-tier outline is actually...two books in one. 

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