I recently completed a Marathon Writing Fest. (Is that actually a thing? If it isn’t, it should be.)
I was on vacation from my day job for three days, then I had two weekend days following. All I did was get up and write every day. I didn’t take naps, or clean house, or watch movies. In fact, the only time I went out of the house was to go to the grocery store and to get my hair cut. The rest of the time was spent writing. I got roughly 20,000 words written and it was glorious bliss.
But during the fest, I came to the muddy middle of my WIP. You know what I’m talking about, right? The part that’s just past the attention-grabbing hook that compels the reader to keep going; and right before the page-turning dilemma that the hero/heroine could never escape, but somehow does, part. The middle.
If you follow most structural models, the mid-point of the story (also referred to as Act II) is where your main character is brought to the point of no return. Something has just turned their life upside down and now they have to deal with. For me, that’s the most difficult part of the story to get right.
During my Marathon Writing Fest, I discovered a trick that helped me reign in the story that had somehow gotten away from me. I was struggling with a few scenes in which the characters weren’t really going anywhere logical. I found myself saying, “Would my protagonist do that? I don’t really know.”
I took a step back and re-evaluated. I needed to reintroduce myself to my characters. I did that by sorting them into Hogwarts Houses and dividing them into Divergent Factions. (*If you are unfamiliar with these terms, see below.) It may be a bit strange, but I found that imagining my characters in the worlds of other books that I loved helped me hone in on broad personality traits.
My main character isn’t exactly like Tris or Harry and the love interest isn’t like Four. (BeeTeeDubs, one day I will write an entire blog post about the perfection known as Four, but that’s for another Tuesday.) As I started thinking about it, some things came to light about the characters based on the Houses and Factions in which I sorted them.
And I’ll just admit it now, it was fun to do!
My Protagonist is Dauntless/Slytherin. (But nobody is going to want to punch her, I swear.) The Antagonist is Dauntless/Slytherin. That immediately shows that there’s going to be conflict. In the middle of my story, my protag was wandering around in the woods asking a bunch of questions and getting no answers. After I sorted and divided her, I realized she wouldn’t be doing that. She would take action and demand answers because she has no fear and she believes she’s completely right. Those kind of people don’t often sit around waiting for the universe to deliver things to them on a cloud.
Other characters I’ve written include an Abnegation/Gryffindor, Erudite/Ravenclaw, Candor/Gryffindor, and Amity/Hufflepuff. I’ve got an Amity/Ravenclaw, Erudite/Slytherin, and Abnegation/Ravenclaw too.
When my book is published one day, (When, not If. Positive thinking) you can try to figure out which one is which. If I’ve done my job right, then that should be easy for you.
If you’re a writer struggling with direction in the middle, fry sorting and dividing and see what happens next.
*Hogwarts Houses are in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Factions are a large part of the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. If you haven’t read them yet, please, in the immortal words of Tom Haverford, “Treat Yo Self.”