What is a lagging middle?
A lagging middle is what sometime occurs after a main character has set out on their journey to find love, solve a mystery, or overcome the villain, but they haven't yet reached the final confrontation. If the story meanders along without an apparent goal in sight, or the trials become too repetitious without having an emotional effect on the main character, the writer risks the reader becoming disengaged from the story.
Needless to say, stories need to move forward, gather momentum, and launch readers into the climax with fear in their hearts for the heroes.
How do you tell if you have a lagging middle?
Unfortunately there is no perfect method for discovering whether or our own stories have low points other than making sure you have a strong story structure. On Day 9 you mapped our story to the classic story arc and that should have revealed places where the story needed work to bring it in line with reader expectations.
The best way to tell if you have a lagging middle is for someone to tell you that you do. This means you might not find out you have a lagging middle until you have someone read your story and provide in-depth feedback. At some point, you may be ready to have beta readers take your story for a spin. Listen closely to what they tell you. If they tell you they were bored at any point in the story, that is an opportunity to fix the lag.
How do you fix a lagging middle?
You've already looked at several ways to fix a lagging middle. On Day 11 you looked at making every scene in your story purposeful. This means you've already examined your scenes to confirm your story is moving forward. If you completed the Character Arc exercise from Day 15, you've also confirmed that your readers will care about your characters. You've even tested your momentum in the exercises covering Pacing from Day 12 and Tension from Day 13. The only other thing you can do at this point is focus on the breathers.
What are breathers?
Breathers are the space between tension in a novel. They are the physical or mental break we give our character as they transition from one challenge to the next as they make their way to achieving that thing they wanted in the beginning of a story. Breathers can be fast or slow, high or low. Depending on where you are within the story, your breather should be used as a method of setting the pace of the story but also of giving the reader "down" time after an emotionally charged scene. If you think of a highly dramatic movie, we are kept on the edge of our seats by the low build-up of oncoming drama as we are by the highly charged moments of an internal or external battle.
This exercise is one more opportunity to focus in a bit tighter on pace to make sure you don't have a lagging middle, so focus on the middle 50% of you story. Yes, this is very subjective and yes you may have done this perfectly while writing without even thinking about it. Keep in mind this is just one more tool that you can use to perfect something that may already be very good or fix something that you initially thought was "just fine as it is."
Exercise: Review Breathers
Analysis of Breathers
Does the breather have an obvious purpose?
DOWNLOAD: Breathers Worksheet
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Go to Day 25 - Climactic Ending