Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Stuck in the Middle

The Beginning

I've got these two old friends, maybe from school, now in their early 30s living in a flat in London. The first part of the story sees these two reverse roles. The settled one, we'll call her Alpha, loses control over a few things in her life and ends up needing help from the restless one. The restless one, we'll call Beta, through helping her friend, sorts a few things out.

The Middle ?

So now I'm at this role reversal. But why is it interesting? How can this situation be used to produce conflict? Should some crisis happen that Alpha used to take care of but in her new found chaos, it's up to Beta? Also, due to this reversal, we've got some resentment simmering. The roles they had in respect to each other has been disturbed so that their friendship doesn't really work any more, though on the surface it's still ticking along. How could this be interesting? Should one need the help of the other? - but that would be a repeated plot point.

The End

I already know the end. We work out why that resentment developed, map it back to things in the past. Ultimately the two women have to work out a new way of relating to each other because their lives have changed and they have changed. It's something that does happen in longterm friendships and I know how to play that out - it all ties back to why Alpha needed Beta's help in the first place.

But I'm stuck in the middle. I need a plot filler. An ex-boyfriend. A crisis. A practical problem - a mouse in the kitchen / an alien spaceship in the back garden.

Suggestions, please?


  1. Hmmm... I might be completely off base, but I think your issue here is characterization and motivation.

    Your plot sounds character centered, so the conflict needs to come out of opposing motivations. And when I say conflict, I mean your two motivations need to seem 100% mutually exclusive. If you don't have that, you've got a problem. So. Why would Alpha need help? How does she feel about it? And B. Why wouldn't Beta want to help? Why does she anyway? What is the effect of these opposing needs and wants and emotions. Also, does Alpha realize that B's conflicted?

    Another big cause for a slumping middle is that the plot seems to be the universe throwing things at the poor hapless characters. By the middle, the repetition of stuff just happening will wear down on the reader and the writer.

    So when you say "the reversal happens", make sure that either that's one big thing the universe throws at the characters (e.g. someone important dies in a car accident) or that the reversal happens because of a bad choice made by Alpha. And then the rest of the story needs to be about the choices the characters make, the (possibly disastrous) results of those choices. And then about how they fight their way out of it.

    Sorry, nothing specific, I know, but only you know what you want to happen in the story. BUT, in broad strokes, the above would be what interests me in a story like yours. That's the best I can offer.

    Hope this helps!

    1. Many thanks, Misha! I like the idea about the story being about the choices they make. The help is indeed needed in the first place through Alpha making a bad choice. So, that theme can carry it through. You're right as well that it should be kept simple. With my short novel, I was half way through writing it and still formulating plot so I'm determined this time to hammer out the plot first!
      Thanks again for your comment x

  2. Why do you need a crisis? It can be a seduction to the other way of living. A happy (subterranean) transition. Stuff like falling in love with a person, a job, money, power etc does that. Just suggesting.

    1. Yes, I like that idea - that instead of fighting her new role, Alpha gets carried away with it - seduced by it, as you say. Thanks a lot for your thoughts. I appreciate it :)

  3. Give it a historical setting - some time or place in turmoil as the backdrop and sub-plots will grow from that maybe?

    1. I see what you mean - bring in outside influences. I'll be keeping it present day but it's something to think about. Thanks!

  4. Think about this. Here's what's popping into my mind.

    Role reversal is the result of both women going into business together. Beta discovers that she is better at what Alpha does (organizing, planning, multitasking etc. She just never had a reason to apply herself until now.). Alpha's boyfriend hits on Beta. Beta tells Alpha, who does not believe her. Alpha's resentment, increasing drug use causes the company to fold just as they are about to land the big client. Beta has accident and winds up in wheelchair. It happens when Beta tries to rescue Alpha from her drug use. Alpha hits bottom hard and turns to God. She wants to be there for Beta. Will beta recover from being wheelchair bound? Will Alpha really stop using drugs?...

    I hope this helps.

  5. Wow. That's a whole story right there! I like the idea of Alpha causing Beta to have an accident or even visa-versa. That's a plot mover! Thanks for your comment and I'll keep a look out for the above in print by you!

  6. Fiona, your welcome. It's all yours if you can use it. I also thought that it might be interesting if Beta and Alpha wound up at the same hospital - kind of a wierd coincidence or fate? That might make for some interesting dialogue.

    Have a great day. Can't wait to see where you go with your book.