<$Susan Goodwill$>

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

That Pesky Middle NaNo #12

I'm back looking at Nancy Kress's Beginnings Middles and Ends again this morning. A lot of us are in the deep woods and looking for a guide on the way to OZ.
Maybe Nancy can help. She gives good tips about the middle. She suggests that if we are stuck, we do three things:
1. If you stall a few scenes in, take a look at whose story you're writing. Who commands the most attention? Who changes the most? It may not be who you thought it was in the first few scenes. The Wizard of Oz has four main characters and each wants something, but whose story is it? Dorothy's. And in Gone with the Wind we have four strong characters but Scarlet owns the show. If you're stuck, maybe you need to look at this.
2. Who is the Point-of-View Character? All action must be witnessed through the eyes of your point of view character. Nick tells Gatsby's story in The Great Gatsby. A lot of first person plots tell their own story. Most series mysteries are told this way.
Some stories use multiple points of view. If you haven't yet, by mid-book, you want to hone the points of view to increase your focus. Decide exactly who deserves a point of view. This tells you what scenes you may include in the rest of your book.
3.Okay--Now the part that helped me. Once you have determined whose story you are writing and committed to your point of view character, Nancy talks about throughline. A throughline is the main plotline of your story, "the primary events of the most significant line of action " that lead to the end scenes. Your story in one sentence. Okay, so I get that.
(Many writers don't need to worry about this until the second draft. They just perk along adding wordcount to the end. I am not one of them. I get stuck in the middle and want to clean house instead of write. This is a sure sign that I am either crazy or very, very unhappy.)
Nancy tells us to determine that throughline, and then make a list of everything that has to happen to everybody in your story to get to the end of that througline. Sounds simple, right? Then cross off all the events that happen out of the range of your point of view character (or characters) and figure out how these things will be learned by them. Add scenes for those items.
Now you have a list of your main story events. Think about each one. Is it important enough to be a scene? Two scenes? Should it just be summarized? Is your list is partial? Maybe you can only see three or four scenes ahead in your woods. Don't worry! Write those scenes and when they're exhausted, make a second list. Odds are you'll see the way by then.
Is this an outline? Yes and no. It doesn't include anything but waymarkers on the throughline path.
You still have the poppy fields of secondary threads and subplots that may require other scenes . Just a caution, don't fall asleep and wander away from your throughline path for more than two scenes at a time.

See you at the Emerald City.