Boot Camp Day 10: The Midpoint

So how did your scene turn out?  What do you mean you didn’t get to it?  Congrats to those of you who brought in the heavy artillery.  Your reward is a GREAT second act.

Latrine Duty for the WIMPS who didn’t take the time to edit a scene. You wouldn’t face-up to your own mess, so you get to clean someone else’s.   Go to any writers’ forum, choose one piece up for critique, and find something you like about it.  Then write a complete, honest, line-by-line critique.  Keep in mind that the greatest gift you can give the other author is your honesty–but try to point out positives as you go. I don’t care if it’s shit and you’re bored on the third line–at least that other author is DOING something for their career.  You’re a lump of dirt on his boot.

And LISTEN UP, recruits. Some of you seem to be GREAT at coming up with excuses. Creative and imaginative too, you pathetic wimps. CHANNEL THAT into your book instead. Don’t write me notes about why you couldn’t write. Just do it.

The Midpoint

Today we’re talking about the Midpoint of your novel, or the scene I call its soul.

I never thought about this concept. It wasn’t mentioned in most of my writing books. So I have to credit Alexandra Sokoloff for telling me about it on her blog and in her corresponding book. Our approach to the subject is different from hers, but I want y’all to read her informative post on the subject–and maybe her book (right). I’ll put a link to her blog down below and suggest you read that post as homework–YES, SUNFLOWERS, you get to do homework in boot camp. image

You’re in the second half of your second act and your characters have become real people to your readers. You’ve taken them out of their comfort zone and banged their conflicting goals up against each other. The backstory has peeped out between their actions, and the reader is fully engaged in this story. You’re setting up a final confrontation in Act 3–but we need to do something else first.

We need to LAUNCH our readers into that river-rapid stream-of-events that will carry them to the end of your book. And we have to do it in a way that yanks their heartstrings.

That’s right, Heming-wanna-bees, a good book should wrench your readers’ gut–they were looking for that when they first read your cover blurb. It doesn’t matter if this is deep, interpersonal novel material or lightweight, make-you-roll-on-the-floor humor, your book needs to touch their insides.

If they want shallow, logical, or good-looking drama, they’ll watch TV. (Yep, you can send me hate mail on that.)

You’ve built a connection between the reader and your characters–but have you utilized it? Did you COMMANDEER their blood vessels? You’ve got to start right now–in the middle to second half of Act 2. It can start slow or it can go ahead and EXPLODE–since explosions are fun–but it HAS to get started. And the scene where it starts should blow away all sense of normalcy–your readers should NOT be able to set the book down.

At least not without getting furious with the person who made them set the book down.

And not unless they’re constantly THINKING about your book, just yearning for that moment when they can get back to the action.

The scene that accomplishes that is the Midpoint. Here’s Alexandra’s definition:

The Midpoint is one of the most important scenes or sequences in any book or film: a major shift in the dynamics of the story. Something huge will be revealed; something goes disastrously wrong; someone close to the hero/ine dies, intensifying her or his commitment (What I call the “Now it’s personal” scene… The Midpoint can also be a huge defeat, which requires a recalculation and NEW PLAN of attack. It’s a game-changer, and it locks the hero/ine even more inevitably into the story.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT: Find the right scene in Act 2 and make it WOW us at the same time it sneaks into the reader’s cardiovascular pump. That WOW factor is a diversion. BIG things should be happening–no, colliding–in the main plot. We’re nearing the second window.

This is your a dramatic right jab to the chin just before a brick left-punch to the groin. They’re getting senseless and their face starts bleeding. Breathless, they will NEED to keep reading–to find out what happens. Then you’ll hit them with the second window–and the end of Act Two.

Your Midpoint scene might be beautiful, horrible, stinky, or overwhelmingly huge–to distract our senses while we start our real work: the undercover infiltration of the reader’s soul.

Now get out of my sight and give this scene POWER.

Click for Alexandra’s post on Midpoint

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