Write a better plot, step 9: The energy anatomy of novels

We are now looking at Step 9 of this series. We’ve talked about some of the major parts of a novel, such as the character arc, setting, and climax. Today, we’re stepping back and looking at a larger picture of the project. Watch the video below.

Among the hardest parts to write in a novel is the dreaded middle. Lots of times, this is where writers run out of steam. The novelty of the beginning is gone, and the end is out of reach. The middle is where we need to work really hard to keep the reader’s attention. Things have to be interesting and exciting. We have to come up with lots of conflict and keep the story’s energy high.

It’s not an easy task. To get some ideas of how the middle should be, let’s continue to look at examples from the movies ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ Both of these stories began as books. However, I’m a visual person, and I like to analyze movies to see what makes them work. The same principles do apply to novels, as to screenplays.

In ‘How to Train Your Dragon,’ the middle of the story is kept interesting and exciting with Hiccup’s struggles as he learns how to work with Toothless. These struggles are parallel to the tasks he and the other young Vikings have to do to complete their training. Whenever Hiccup learns something from Toothless, we are shown how he applies that to the other dragons. We see him growing in his knowledge and skills, and in his relationship with Toothless. All the while, there is the danger of discovery by his mentor, his father and Astrid.

In ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ there are a lot of conflicts in all the major and minor characters. Fights with the orcs, goblins, and other unsavories. The ever-present danger of the ring falling into the wrong hands. The increasing evidence of the ring’s influence over Frodo.

If you are pre-plotting a project, think about the major conflicts and situations that your character will face. It doesn’t matter if they don’t all connect for now. The important thing is to generate a list of important scenes that will keep the middle of the story from sagging.


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