No – not that one!
The one in your story. You’re writing along with great characters who are overcoming perilous/emotional obstacles, and then –bam! – you run into a quagmire marsh that sucks your story to a standstill. Argh!
Technically, this doesn’t happen at the exact middle of the story. It’s most likely to occur at about the 75% mark. The big challenge that undercut your hero at about the 50% mark has been met and conquered. The slam-bang ending is still a few thousand words beyond where you sit. In the quagmire. Floundering. Stagnating. Drinking coffee and nibbling chocolate. Contemplating cleaning your garage…with a toothbrush.
And then comes that “ah-HA!” moment when you realize that coffee, chocolate, and make-work aren’t going to fix your sagging middle. No. You’re actually going to have to writesomething. Argh! (Again.)
You need to get your characters un-stuck to un-sag them. Toss them something new (or possibly just new-ish) to deal with. Trip them up. Make them work. Surprise them and your readers. This is the point where you need to think outside the bookstore. This is the point where your story will break loose from the pack of its genre. This is where you will make it sing.
Don’t dread that sagging middle – use it! Put it to work for your story. Create something unique, intriguing, maybe even slightly disturbing, but give your hero something to grow and/or shine through.
~ Pegg Thomas
image from morguefile.com