Humans aren't the only ones who suffer from sagging middles.
Novels do, too.
It's accompanied by that leaden feeling that weighs you down with the mocking question :
"What were you thinking of when you thought you could write a book?"
When you hear that voice, I want you to answer, "DUH!"
D ..... DISASTERS
U ..... UNDERLYING
H ..... HEROES
I.) Disaster. When your novel's middle sags, you certainly know that word. It's what you feel you are writing!
II.) Escalating Disasters ...
A.) are what make up the backbone of the best novels.
B.) without them, you're just writing a news snippet for CNN.
C.) Each disaster must lead logically from the last one to make a coherent whole.
D.) But to interest an agent, then the publisher, and finally the reader ...
you must have a destination in mind for your hero from the very beginning.
III.) If your novel's middle is sagging then ...
A.) Like with humans, the discipline of exercise is missing.
B.) The disciplined exercise of steadily working towards a pre-conceived ending, step by logical step.
C.) Without that compass to guide you, your novel will meander all over the place, subject to the whims of your imagination.
I.) The trouble with a novel that its very structure invites sagging in the middle.
II.) Your novel's middle will more than likely take up fully half of your pages.
A.) After that many pages, things start to look alike.
B.) The fix : underlying that middle with a tremendous disaster, rocking your hero and his world to its foundations.
C.) Shaking things up like that will awaken your readers from the sameness doze they may have fallen into :
Think Obi wan Kenobi sacrificing himself so that Luke may escape. To all appearances, Darth Vader looks unbeatable.
D.) This enormous disaster shores up your novel's middle, firming it up and preventing sagging.
I.) A memorable character that leaps off the page and into your reader's imagination is the keystone to the success of your novel.
A.) Think Hannibal Lector.
What? Hannibal a hero? Of sorts. He chose his victims quite carefully. Don't agree? Think Dexter. Same principle. We pull for Dexter, for he has chosen an acceptable outlet for his murderous impulses.
B.) UNDERLYING comes into play again with your hero :
Your hero was not born yesterday. He/she has a past. It will determine his or her actions. You had better know your hero's backstory.
C.) In fact, your hero's backstory may very well provide the world-shaking disasters that braces your novel's middle.
D.) You see how DISASTER - UNDERLYING - HEROES all interweave with one another? It is a support device that wraps around your novel's middle, keeping it firm.
E.) A fully developed hero with a past, flaws, hopes, failures will make him seem real, sucking your reader into identifying with him, rooting for him, and thrilling with him when he succeeds.
F.) Without a backstory, your reader will not understand your hero -- and more than likely, neither will you. And that slippery slope ends with a sagging middle and confused muddle of an ending.
G.) Backstory is an iceberg ;
1.) The part that is important to you as a writer is the 9/10 of it that the reader cannot see.
2.) The part you must tell your reader is the tiny 1/10 above the water line.
3.) Sensory and data overload is one of the hallmarks of a sagging middle.
H.) What determines the backstory you reveal to your reader?
1.) Core truths.
2.) They determine your hero's motivations, acting as a rudder in the flow of events in your novel.
3.) They often conflict.
You know why Miss America wants "World Peace?" She wants to impress those fuddy-duddy judges and win the war of the beauty pageant!
Stated values often clash with the real ones, motivating your hero.
II.) A dynamic hero, like say Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark, shored up those times when he he wasn't in that armor -- those moments could very well have sagged -- but because of his impish, rogue attitude, those moments were some of the best of the film, IRON MAN.
*) I hope you've found something of value in this little post. Happy New Year, Roland!