Friday, 22 August 2014

Make Your Middle Sing!

Recently, I attended a sensational workshop given by James Scott Bell. It was at the Romance Writers' of Australia conference in Sydney.

A seriously helpful how-to.
JSB is a huge fan of structure, which greatly appeals to me. One of the topics that resonated with me at this workshop was the "Mirror Moment". Up until now, I've always known it as the Midpoint in story structure. It happens pretty close to the middle of the story itself. To me, the Midpoint is where the character cannot go back to their ordinary life, they absolutely must take stock and take charge of their destiny.

You think it's a coincidence there's the Intermission in Gone With The Wind, right after Scarlett O'Hara stands there declaring she'll never go hungry again? Course not. Until this point, Scarlett has done her best to adapt to the perils life has thrown at her. But she's done with the world telling her what to do, she's taking matters into her own hands. Even if she has to lie, steal or kill. Tara (the family home) is the most important thing in the world to her, and nothing is going to take it away from her.

So to me it was the Midpoint, but James Scott Bell called it the Mirror Moment, because it's often that moment in a book or film, where the main character looks deep inside themselves and has to decide how they're going to go on. In an action story, it's where the character thinks they are going to die. Or, it could be the moment the character actually looks into a mirror and sizes themselves up. Silently, they face their deepest fears, knowing they have to be hero of their own story.

He goes into this in excellent detail in his book Write Your Novel From The Middle.

Which is pretty darn awesome.

So then, freshly fired-up, I came home and grabbed my first Ondine off the shelf and had a look at the very middle of the book. It's 292 pages long. The Absolute middle is therefore page 196. Did I have a Mirror Moment or a proper Midpoint? Did I have a main protagonist looking inside himself or herself, declaring how they were going to go on?

Why yes. Yes I absolutely did!

Seriously, my brain did me a solid. Thank you brain!

I'm not even sure I really knew what a Midpoint was, let alone a Mirror Moment when I first wrote this book waaaaaay back in about 2007/2008.

Sure, I loved structure, I loved characters being confronted with all sorts of issues, both external and internal. I also loved the way a character reacted against things for a little while, before pulling their boots on and standing up for themselves. Becoming an advocate for themselves.

But I don't think I understood structure properly. There was something subconscious about this writing that I must have picked up from a lifetime of reading.

Honesty time: I don't think I quite made enough of this Midpoint, but it is there. Hamish has come to the decision that he has to be a man, he has to finally grow up and be worthy of Ondine. Ondine too has seen Shambles/Hamish as the man he could be, and has decided to do whatever she can to keep him Hamishly human.

Those with eagle eyes will note this is 46% of the way in, because it's the ebook version. The reason this is not exactly 50% is because I placed sample chapters for book 2 at the end of this one, so that skewed the percentages. But hand on heart, this is the exact middle of the first book. The pages preceding and following are all about Ondine's need to help Hamish, and Hamish's need to be good enough for Ondine. I'd call that a pretty good Midpoint.

Do you have a favourite Midpoint in a movie or book? Share your moments in the comments. I have heaps of favourites but I've done enough talking. Now it's your turn.

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