Letters from the Editor
Plotting Through the Middle
It seems like the beginning and the end of a novel are easy – it’s that long stretch in between that’s the hard part. How do you keeping it interesting? How do you keep the story going and growing?
Synchronicity must have been at work because as soon as I put my mind to this puzzle I came across a very interesting post by Heather Severson on LinkedIn to an article called “The Dance of the Flaming Chainsaws” by Benjamin Percy.
The author explains that a flaming chainsaw is an element of trouble – the more characters you have, the more flaming chainsaws. The protagonist will have several. The chainsaws are juggled throughout the novel, each one coming around again after a span of a few chapters, providing a constant, rotating threat. Each time a chainsaw passes through your hands, it gains speed and becomes more perilous until extinguished at the end of the story.
I continued my research and found an interesting article titled “Plotting the Novel’s Tricky Middle” by Harvey Chapman. The author explains that most of the things we do in life are broken down into smaller steps. The same is true for a character in a novel – the way they achieve their overall goal is to break it down into a series of mini goals. Each mini goal is one element of a mini plot:
- The character decides to act on a goal.
- They encounter conflict.
- The scene reaches a resolution.
- The character reacts emotionally.
- They come up with a new goal (this is actually the first step of the next mini plot).
For those non-organic writers out there, a good exercise would be to make a list of the flaming chainsaws for each character and a list of the mini goals leading to the overall goal.