If Walls Could Talk: Middle Blues

M.H. Norris

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about how I love new projects because the empty page is full of untapped potential and the ideas are flowing and anything happens.

I stand by that statement. Beginnings are a fun stage in any story. But then, you get to the middle. The other day, James asked me how my All the Petty Myths story was going.  Here was my answer:

“It’s the part where I’ve done the edges of a puzzle, but now have to do the middle and no idea how to make it work.”

Welcome to the middle of a story. It’s hard and it’s often a place where you might doubt yourself a fair bit. The end is starting to come into the horizon but you know you have a lot of ground to cover.

And for a mystery, there are so many pieces in place. Did you introduce your UnSub? Did you lay enough clues? Did you give your protagonist a chance to find it? And, if you are in the mood, did you sneak enough red herrings in so that your readers are guessing until the big reveal?

With Notches, I got mixed reactions to the end of my book. A few people saw the killer coming from pretty early on in the book. But then I also go a lot of people who said they didn’t see it coming until I revealed it about three chapters from the end.

I’ll admit, it was satisfying to hear that people didn’t guess my ending. But here, in my second mystery, I doubt if I can pull it off again. And I can help but wonder if I can up my game for those who saw it coming.

Middles are hard. You’ve got the setup, which you may or may not be second-guessing, and you’ve got a vague (or maybe pretty solid) idea of where this tale is going to end. You might have some clues to find, red herrings to plant, suspects to name and then dismiss, an UnSub to introduce, and a variety of other things.

Yet, with all these pieces you might find yourself with no idea of where to go.

“How hard can it be?”

That’s a question I ask myself all to frequently in this process. I know where I need to go but I have no idea to get there.

They say the middle of a story is the hardest. It’s where you have to bridge the gap from your set up to your climax and resolution. It’s crucial because this is the body of your story, the meat in-between the beginning and the end.

In other words, no pressure.

That’s where I’m at, stuck in the middle blues. Suddenly, everything else is more fascinating. I’ve watched all thirteen episodes of Fuller House, the first three Pokémon movies, and docked a fair amount of hours in Alpha Sapphire. I’ve stared in envy at things like The Curious Case of the Clockwork Doll and The Door of Eternal Night, because Heidi and Josh make it all look so infuriatingly easy.

And that was just this weekend.

It becomes hard to manage to write when you hit the middle and you feel as if you have hit a brick wall. You try trick, yourself, then try bribing yourself, and nothing seems to work.

But, you tell yourself you’ll figure it out and the story will get written. Eventually, you’ll find the crucial pieces of the puzzle that makes the rest of the story fit together nice and snug.

And it will.

Eventually, you’ll get the story written, the gyms beaten, and the Elite Four conquered. Sorry, I’m still on a Pokémon Day high–so those analogies seem to just keep coming.

Take a deep breath, maybe a break, and then come back to the story. You can do it!