Conquering the Messy Middle

We’ve all heard of (and endured) the “messy middle” of a story. When I get there, I start to feel fatigued; perhaps my characters do, too. They also seem uncertain, hesitant, and fearful of what’s to come. They hold back with good reason – the middle of my stories contains the low point, and what’s coming won’t be good. Since they’re not inclined to help, I need to figure out how to get through it and bring those that will survive it along with me.

Amass Low Point Adrenaline

I know low points are just that – low. They make you want to shut off the computer and park in front of the TV with snacks and an afghan. Sure, low points are not joyful, but they can be exciting. They’re emotionally-charged and have the potential to provide exciting, sensory details and thrilling exchanges between characters. I can get behind that! I found that if I stay in the moment, right next to my characters, I can create a low point that readers will enjoy, despite its depressing intensity. I write really tight here – one step, one moment at a time.

I had to create a death scene in one of my stories – I didn’t want to, but the story offered no other alternative. I loved that character! He was an innocent that had done nothing to deserve his death, but there it was. That made it even harder. I did have to step away a few times in order to get the scene finished, but my understanding and sympathetic (surviving) characters were right there waiting for me when I returned. Such loyalty!

Battle Your Way Out

The events leading up to the low point are usually a series of failures that lead you there; perhaps they’re chances brushed aside, opportunities missed, or warning signs ignored. Maybe that’s why when we reach the low point we’re all exhausted and ready to give up!

Once the low point has been reached, the surviving characters must fight their way out from the depths of despair. They have to pick themselves up and vow to move forward, alone or together. As they emerge from the low point, they’re transformed in one way or another because they’ve learned something from their time in the low point that will serve them well going forward.

Declare Victory!

Yay! You’re out of the low point, but still technically in the messy middle! The good news is that you’re on the upswing – the worst is behind you, and you’re armed with characters that have been transformed by what’s happened to them. Use it to your advantage. Your characters may be inspired to change their ways, deciding a change of location is in order, or vowing revenge on the person who wronged them. We all hope our characters will do good things with their new-found selves, but there are no guarantees. Bottom line? You fought the battle of the messy middle and emerged victorious! Hold your sword high and celebrate!


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