Stuck? Go Watch a Movie

A very good writer has a problem. Her prose is gorgeous, but in the middle of her historical, the story stalls, staggers forward and reels backward. What can she do to remedy this problem?
Writing Tip for Today: Different writers handle a sagging middle (that’s the novel not the writer) in different ways. See if any of these methods appeals to you:

  • Storyboard. Especially for novelists with a completed draft, mapping out your story scene by scene is a good way to gain distance so you can see where the story speeds up and where it stalls. Take a pack of 3×5 cards or a spread sheet, and write one sentence that outlines the main action of each scene. Also note the chapter and page number for easy reference.
  • What If? Play a game of “what if?” to enliven your plot points. Instead of a scene where characters are sitting around or giving the reader a history lesson, imagine motion. Get the characters doing stuff. Ask yourself what the next step in claiming the story goal should be. And don’t let your main characters remain off stage for very long.
  • Read a Good Book. When I’m stuck, I will often go read a novel I admire. Not to imitate so much as to fuel my subconscious mind with ideas. By reading stuff you wish you’d written, my opinion is that you set free your own creativity.
  • Watch a Few Good Movies. Movies are a microcosm of how to put together a story without sagging the middle. Pick several in the same genre as your novel and hole up for a weekend with a DVD and a notebook. Write down stuff you notice that keeps you watching. You don’t copy, but again, this gives your mind permission to create in a more readable way.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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