Middle Madness!!

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Middle Madness!!

Postby Robin » 08 Dec 2010, 12:02

If my WIP is the typical 3 act structure, I need help!!
Act I- Great setup!
Act III- Kick ass ending

Act II-- Sagging like old lady boobs :(
eek. how do I revive the middle so people would want to read the amazing ending I've written?
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby steve » 08 Dec 2010, 12:14

Robin wrote:Act II-- Sagging like old lady boobs :(
eek. how do I revive the middle so people would want to read the amazing ending I've written?

Implants.
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby Claudie » 08 Dec 2010, 12:19

My favourite trick is to bring more focus on a subplot or two. Not too many, as you don't want to lose your main storyarc, but sometimes ending a smaller arc that started at the beginning will give the reader the satisfaction and tension he needs to keep turning the pages... until everything picks up again in the big story.

These can be secondary character development, or the arrival of a major element for your ending.

Now, I rarely work with a story structure that resemble the three acts. I tend to have two or three plotlines running alongside each other, touching every now and then and colliding in a kick-ass ending. It becomes easier to pick up one when the others need a rest.

Still, this might help your case! Look at your subplots. There might be one screaming for attention. :)

Also: What steve said.
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby Margo » 08 Dec 2010, 12:25

Oh, girl! One of my favorite topics of study!

My suggestions:

Make sure you can identify your first plot point, your first pitch point, your mid-point twist, your second pitch point, and your second plot point. Make sure they are all (roughly) where they are supposed to be and doing what they're supposed to be doing.

Look at each scene and look hard at the level of conflict and (even more importantly) internal conflict in every scene. Gotta be in every scene. No relaxing 'happy breaks'.

Ask yourself if you have progressively raised the stakes through the course of Act II. What are the personal stakes and the public stakes? Can you make them more dire? Keep asking, what's worse than that? And what's worse than that?

Have you introduced the protagonist's main fear and endangered his greatest desire? Have you introduced doubt into the mind of the protagonist? Have/can you make him want things that are irreconcilable and mutually exclusive?

Have the scenes been increasing in average intensity? (Keeping in mind that there can only be a couple of maximum intensity scenes in a typical book and only a couple more almost-max intensity scenes.)

Look at scenes that are not holding your interest well. Play with making them bigger and much more dramatic or making them more subtle and sub-texted.

Try a 'reversing motives' exercise ( a Maass technique...like sooooo many of the others I use). List all the reasons your character is doing what he is doing in the scene. Look at the last reason on the list. Rewrite the scene with that motive as the primary one.

Play with the first and last line of every scene so that they sound great all by themselves.

Look at how the intensity of the story's primary relationship is developing. This is one of Nathan's suggestions. See how it looks if it grows in intensity and swings back and forth between increasingly positive to increasingly negative.

I'm going to stop now. If you haven't already, read The Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Maass. He addresses this specifically.
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby Claudie » 08 Dec 2010, 12:34

I'm going to stop now. If you haven't already, read The Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Maass. He addresses this specifically.


You remind me I need to build my Christmas wish list for writing-related books, and this needs to be on it. ^^
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby polymath » 08 Dec 2010, 12:53

A middle point of a plot reaches a climactic peak internally. A climax is where all available, necessary, and pertinent information about the main dramatic complication is known to readers and to the protagonist, the protagonist's efforts to address the complication are greatest, antagonism's purpose and complication opposition are greatest, the forces of opposition are in greatest opposition, and the final outcome is most in doubt. Emotionally, the protagonist is ready at last to resolve the complication. However, outcome is still in doubt and readers emotionally are hoping the protagonist succeeds.

Reader tension separates at the internal climax. A tragic crisis follows a climax, where the optimism provided by the climax turning point is dashed, a new recognition or discovery occurs, and a major reversal results. Readers' external emotional climax then occurs in the final crisis that sets up denouement in an ending

Seems to me from what's given, the internal climax and tragic crisis aren't fully realized.

Revised to add "and the final outcome is most in doubt."
Last edited by polymath on 08 Dec 2010, 15:04, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby bcomet » 08 Dec 2010, 13:31

I am struggling with plot arcing myself in a current WiP.

It seems I have an Act 1, right on target
Act 2, that is necessary to carry the character forward
Act 3, that progresses and intensifies the situation
and then an Act 4, the resolution.

I wonder if the my Act 2+3 (above)really just equals an Act 2.
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby polymath » 08 Dec 2010, 13:55

A principal difference between a three act structure and a four act structure is the internal climax appreciably divides rising action and falling action. In other words, outcome doubt. Doubt of outcome increases--rises--toward a climax and decreases--falls--afterward in both three act structures and four act structures. The significance of the tragic crisis is greater in a four act structure than in a three act structure, simple and complex plot type also play a role. A tragic crisis is when despite best efforts all seems lost anyway.

For example, the tragic crisis in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is the first "desunto" shark attack. The main dramatic question, or suspense question, then becomes will Santiago land the marlin with some saleable meat left on it. The final outcome is still in doubt. The previous bridging complication and its dramatic question of will he or won't he catch a worthy fish has been answered. The main dramatic complication and dramatic question haven't yet been resolved at that point in the novella and aren't until the bitter end.
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby Down the well » 08 Dec 2010, 15:59

Steve thought he was giving you a smart ass (albeit funny) answer by saying implants, but he's right. Sometimes, if a novel has an awesome first act with great set-up, the middle can be a good place to implant some of that backstory in greater detail (if it's relevant and reveals something important that the reader needs to know). If done right, backstory details can add interesting depth to a character or situation that wasn't obvious in a fast-paced and compelling opening. For instance, middles are a good place to reveal a secret if your character has one. Or, like Claudie said, it can be a good place to amp up a subplot. Lots of good advice here. Good luck.
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby Robin » 08 Dec 2010, 16:44

Thanks for such great answers! Guess I have homework.
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby bcomet » 08 Dec 2010, 18:08

Thanks Polymath! Very helpful.

My WiP has significant tragedy and it seemed –intuitively– more story-true to go with the four acts.

I haven't heard much about them though.
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby polymath » 08 Dec 2010, 20:13

A tragic crisis is when right before a hero triumphs, right before a suitor sways a love interest, a detective discovers a significant clue of a crime, or a final solution is set in motion, and so on, a tragic but credible and related complication arises.

Today, I took my demolition derby refugee car to the scrap yard. At any time from when I decided to go until I arrived back home a tragic crisis could have occurred. The car might not have started. It might have broken down on the way, run out of gas, overheated, the brakes might have locked up, a tire might have gone flat. A wreck might have happened along the way. The scrap dealer might have reneged on our telephonic handshake agreement. I could have been stuck at the scrap yard hitchiking until after dark. It's freezing cold out there so I planned on being on the road during the warmest part of the day. Twenty minutes driving there and forty minutes hitchiking home. No tragic crisis, an adventure but not much of a story. I got what I wanted from the scrap dealer without any undue hassle. It was about what the car was worth, in fact, about what the insurance company sold it back to me for after the rear-ender that total lossed the car in the first place, but I drove for another five years and thousands of miles. I managed to pay my rent before the penalty fee deadline too. And now I'm driving a much less worrisome car.

A knight is about to slay the dragon holding a damsel for dinner. But the dragon has one more defense in his bag of tricks. The dragon utters a word of power known to the knight as belonging only to the greatest of dragons. And here all along the knight thought he was battling a lesser dragon within the knight's abilities to fight on honorable, chivalrous terms. The word of power shakes the knight's confidence. All seems lost. A tragic crisis. The falling action then is the knight fighting despair and a loosing battle. The final crisis might then be the knight's noble sacrifice intending at least the damsel in distress to get away. The knight's noble sacrifice exposes the dragon's hidden fatal weakness. Denouement. The knight's knowledge of the word of power and the dragon's fatal weakness would need to be prepositioned or foreshadowed early on though.

In one sense of a dramatic structure, a completed, fully realized narrative has five acts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement acts. An inciting crisis is fully developed by the end of the exposition act. Exposition in the sense of an outset or setup or introductory act beginning. The rising action act is proactive efforts to accomplish a goal, purpose, desire, etc., related to the main complication introduced in the exposition act. The climax act has its five characteristics as I noted in my first response to this topic thread. A tragic crisis follows and is connected to but not necessarily bound to the climax act, where the goal, etc., seems about to be achieved, but here comes a major tragic reversal. The falling action act is proactive efforts to avert total disaster. And a final crisis resulting from the falling action leads into the denouement act. Five acts, three crises. Major discoveries and recognitions and decisions precede and result from the crises.
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby bcomet » 09 Dec 2010, 09:16

This thread has sent me on an interesting journey looking at various historically mapped structures.

I found this on line:
Struct1.gif
Struct1.gif (6.69 KiB) Viewed 11872 times

at http://www.musik-therapie.at/PederHill/ ... e&Plot.htm

which is more of the map that I would draw of my story (since it has four major crises, just as this map indicates) than the typical 3 act structure pyramid/ or plot point chart.

Keeping the tension and listening deeply to the story inside myself is alike a mystical experience, more important creatively than just fitting it into a "form." However the forms are awesome and instructive and good to study and can add much to sturdy a wandering vine, although sometimes the wandering journey can also be fascinating too (and/or self-indulgent... but then we writers have to please ourselves too). :-)
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby polymath » 09 Dec 2010, 10:21

A few months ago I realized any given narrative has two shapes, an internal one and an external one. An external one is how any given reader responds to a narrative, whether it be emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually or a combination or permutation of the three. bcomet's disovered graphic reflects what I see as an external shape paralleling an internal shape. At best, shapes modeling a narrative structure are self-realized graphic idealizations of plotted plots. One reader might follow that shape, another might have an entirely different experience. I know how much my experiences with Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea varies from others' experiences, wildly in many cases. Anyway, below, my latest graphic of an idealized internal shape with an external red ribbon idealizing reader response.

tetra02.jpg
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Re: Middle Madness!!

Postby Mira » 10 Dec 2010, 16:05

I don't know if this would work for you, but I'd tell you what I'd do. I'd drop the kick-ass ending.

Killer, I know, and who knows, it might get there. But I tend to see a story as an organic thing, and follow it where it leads. For all I know, it may lead to an even better kick-ass ending. :)

So, I'd go back to the beginning and write from there. See what develops. But I am completely a pantser, so take that into consideration.

Good luck, Robin! I know you'll work it out. I have faith. :)
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