So how did that first window of opportunity turn out? It had better be crystal clear, cutting-edge unique. Your Lead cannot turn back. He’s deeply committed to this story. Now let’s test him.
Today we focus on the second act, better-known as The Fricking Middle, where you DANGLE obstacles in front of your characters. Whether you’re writing a mystery or just exploring the mystery of your protagonist, every nuance of intrigue should bring out nuances of character. Every action should either raise the stakes or define them. Every scene should play into your final goal.
So you’d better know what that goal is – why? Well if you don’t, Private, you’re gonna get bogged down in a quagmire called BORING. For a mystery, maybe it’s to get to Act 3 with four plausible suspects in play; for a thriller, to send us into cardiac arrest while chasing a terrorist and setting up the final battle; and for that suspense novel, maybe we want to forge a literary highway into the darkest recesses of the human soul–so we can confront it in The End.
YOUR ASSIGNMENT: Write out your goal and a few of the devices you chose to use in Act 2. I like to think of them as vehicles, driving the story and reader FORWARD.
Make a chart, naming each SCENE in this act. You’ll need two empty columns: one for pacing and another for tension. Analyze your speed and intensity through the entire act–one scene at a time. This doesn’t mean to necessarily speed it up, just make certain that the pace is right for this moment of story. Intensity should generally build, but you’ll want some relief, some calm to make the intensity feel more … well just MORE.
This is where most books bog down. Is yours holding up? Does your Fricking Middle send the reader onward into the story, tauntingly?
(Yes, Recruit, that’s a fricking adverb.)