Explosions and the Mushy Middle

So, last week, I wrote a post that very much looked down on the “just write something! (usually an explosion)” mentality of NaNo at this time of the month. However, that doesn’t change the fact that his point of the novel gets very difficult It feels like the pacing goes very odd – there’s so much build-up that needs to happen before the end, but nothing exciting is happening now. You end up adding Significant Conversation after Significant Conversation.

This is the kind of thing that “just blow something up!” is designed for, and the arena where it’s actually good advice. The difficult is, how do you do that without messing up your plot later down the track?

I find the main trick with this is keeping to what the story already has in it. So, before I even think of adding anything, my first question is: can I move a dramatic plot point forward? Subplots are excellent for this – it may mean the subplot gets resolved a bit early, but it also means that the characters have something that’s just (metaphorically) exploded at them that’s going to make the main plot a lot harder. Even if you don’t have a subplot that can be moved forward, consider just plowing ahead with your main plot. You’d be amazed how many Dramatic Relationship Moments are just as effective – even sometimes more so! – when they’re thoroughly embroiled in everything going down the toilet, not just up against a backdrop of intense, gut-wrenching suspense. Remember: you can always go back and add foreshadowing later. Plus, if you do it right, hinting that there is more to know that the protagonists are unaware of, having the Drama lead to the conversation with the Big Reveal can work just as well, and not feel like a Deus Ex Machina. Move your jigsaw puzzle pieces around a bit. Maybe that bit of sky is actually part of the lake.

If there’s nothing already in the story that you can move, then go for adding stuff in. New characters can work – my favourite kind are those who either fully believe in the antagonist’s plans, but are not part of the antagonist’s team, or someone trying to help the protagonists but who has a very different way of going about things (take your pick of “misinformed”, “unsubtle’ and “ideologically opposed”, should you feel so inclined to do things the way I do). Remember: You can always go back and add in the foreshadowing/early appearances later.
Maybe have the antagonist test out the protagonist, or the protagonist test the antagonist and realise that he’s got a lot more firepower than originally anticipated. Turn your gentle escalation into something more akin to a cold war. This may even add a small plot arc to your story, which can help you keep that pacing graph dynamic like it needs to be.

Whatever you decide to do, just have a think about how it will affect the story. You’ll come out fine in the end, I promise.

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