Thursday, June 4, 2009

In the Middle

I'm still reading through Nancy Kress' book, Beginnings, Middles, and Ends. This explanation of the middle is such a clear picture. The act of typing it out verbatim helps plant it firmly in my brain. And hopefully, it will inspire you to think about what's in your middle.

"The middle of a story develops the story's implicit promise by dramatizing incidents that increase conflict, reveal character, and put in place all the various forces that will collide at the story's climax. In other words, the middle is a bridge--sometimes a long, winding bridge, sometimes a short, direct one. At one end of the bridge, the story's beginning introduces characters, conflict and (sometimes) symbols. Then in the middle, these same characters, conflicts, and (sometimes) symbols move across the bridge, grouping themselves as they go into alliances and oppositions. Some people change during their journey across the bridge; some don't. Conflicts deepen. People become more emotional. The stakes may rise. By the time the characters reach the other end of the bridge, the forces determining their behavior are clear. At the far end of the bridge, these same forces will collide (the story's climax).

Unity in fiction depends on keeping everybody on the bridge. The forces developed in the middle must emerge naturally out of the characters and situation introduced at the beginning. In turn, the ending must make use of those same forces and conflicts, with nothing important left out and nothing new suddenly appearing at the last minute."

A great picture, isn't it? With lots of food for thought.