LESSON FIVE: THE MIDDLE
The middle section of the story is the most challenging to write. It is half of your story. In this section the protagonist sets out to accomplish his goal. He makes plans to get what he wants. At the same time, the antagonist is doing the same thing.
Neither should get what they want . . . both should be frustrated, which will complicate the story plot. Each situation should escalate from the previous.
THIS BRINGS YOU BACK TO PLOTTING WHAT'S COMING NEXT.
PROTAGONIST ACCEPTS THE MAIN STORY CHALLENGE
This section starts when the protagonist accepts the story's main challenge, either willingly or having been forced into it. This challenge (problem) will drive the story.He forms a plan of action and sets out to accomplish the goal/challenge. Frodo leaves the Shire. The athlete leaves his family for the Olympic Training Camp. The detective straps on his gun and hits the streets.
He will travel toward his goal in a series of scenes, each leading him closer to his objective. Try to keep the scenes interesting, realistic and dramatic. They should move the storyline forward. The progression of scenes must be compelling. To help you do this, try plotting them using the following guidelines.
When the protagonist accepts the challenge, it is the major conflict that propels the story to the end. It is more than just a reaction to what the protagonist believes about the situation.
SITUATION: Marvin found a dragon and wants to keep it as a pet. His parents say no because they're dangerous. He's upset, because he believes that if his brother found the little creature, his parents would let HIM keep.
WEAK SOLUTION ONE:
Let’s say Marvin runs away to protect his dragon. This is an okay plot point, but it doesn’t have much of a through line to propel a novel to the end. He’s not confronting or solving anything. Once he’s left home, the dragon may be safe, but Marvin hasn’t confronted anything. He just ran away. Yes, he could have a series of fun adventures, but . . . it is simply his reaction to the problem. He hasn’t learned anything. He hasn’t solved anything. It’s just his knee jerk response. It might be enough for a short story, but it’s not enough to be the main conflict of the story.
WEAK SOLUTION TWO: Marvin is captured and taken to dragon school with his dragon. Again, this is an okay plot point, but he still doesn’t have to make any big decisions. There’s not a major issue he has to deal with, unless you embellish and take it to the next step. As it reads, he might learn how to handle his dragon, but it’s not a quest on its own. Like the previous weak example, it’s not enough on its own to sustain a powerful novel.
A STRONG MAJOR CONFLICT: Marvin’s brother is taken hostage and with the aide of his dragon, Marvin must rescue Abel from the evil northern Dragon Warlord who wants control over all dragons and the Kingdom of Urrrdong. Remember, Abel was the favored son, treated like a prince and Marvin like a slave. To save his brother, Marvin has to act, plan, come to grips with his jealousy of Abel and overcome his fear of heights. This is a big enough problem to carry a story from start to finish. It has a specific goal, i.e. SAVE ABEL. He can run away to accomplish this. He can end up in Dragon school, too. But he has a clear objective. As the story progresses, the end goal may enlarge to include saving the Kingdom, but the initial goal of saving Abel doesn’t change.
YOUR TURN - grab your notebook.
Write your protagonist’s major conflict / challenge.