Middle Worth (I’m sorry.)

images (1)James Scott Bell has written a book about writing the middle of your book first. I think it’s called WRITE YOUR NOVEL FROM THE MIDDLE.

Also, I think it’s by James Scott Bell

I haven’t read the book, but I read Bell saying it’s important to know what your hero decides to do at the midpoint. That’s when your protagonist makes the choice that will carry him through to the climax.

I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation this week. I had a novel that was good in many ways, but lacked drive. The problem was my hero’s motive was blah as hell–basically, he was going after the bad guy because he’s the hero, and it’s The Right Thing To Do. I hate that motive. Not that your hero can’t do something because it’s the right thing to do, but the reader needs to know why the hero came to that conclusion. Otherwise, he’s a cartoon character, or the hero of a bad movie.

Remember, I don’t give writing advice, I just talk about writing. OK, just wanted to make sure.

I am reluctant to give writing advice (where have you heard that before?), so when I write about writing either I’ve had an epiphany, I’m desperate for a topic, or I’ve hit on something that produced good results. This is in the last category. Coming up with your ending, beginning and middle–in that order–will give you all or most of the structure you need in order to start. In the middle, your hero is in the pit, he’s ready to give up, and he’s bummed because I keep using masculine pronouns instead of doing that thing where you alternate between ‘he’ and ‘she’. You need to change something so it’s not a whole book of “Bob wants the magic lettuce. He went out, fought everyone who tried to stop him, and then got the magic lettuce and made cole slaw.”

Coming up with that mid-point pivot, from where he sees A Chance–not a guarantee, but a possibility.


Algis Budrys made the point that with each confrontation with the problem, the hero and the reader should learn more about the problem, about what the villain can do. At the midpoint, he has a pretty good idea of what he’s up against–which he didn’t have when he started on this journey.

So when you’re coming up with a story, it’s a huge help if you know what your hero wants, how he ends up, AND what happens to him in the middle when things are at their worst, and he recalls his motive, recalls what he’s learned about the obstacles AND himself and what he can and cannot do, and what he’s going to do about it.

I’d love having an attic office. I’d love having an attic.