Monday, September 8, 2014

Plot From the Middle

By Linda Rohrbough

After a while in this business, the lingo starts to sound very much the same. However, I just found an idea that’s new to me that I think is quite useful. It’s plotting a book from a central point where the main character has a realization about themselves, then working backward and forward from that point.

I wish I could say I came up with this one. But I came across it in a Kindle ebook by James Scott Bell called Write Your Novel From the Middle. I’ve met Jim a couple of times at conferences we both attend, although I don’t know him well. (He does have one of my clocks.) Anyway, I’ve found his work on plotting useful in the past. Back when the world was young, he wrote Plot & Structure, one title in a series of how-to books on novel writing published by Writer’s Digest. I collected the entire series. I’ve used, with his permission, some of his ideas and graphs in my Writer’s Toolbox workshop.

To get to the point, here’s my graphical version of Jim’s start-from-the-middle method of plotting. Jim calls this the “Golden Triangle".

To start with the middle, you work first on the realization the character is going attain that drives their change in the story. Jim calls this the “Mirror Moment". This is the point in the story where your character takes a hard look at himself and his situation. Jim offers a number of examples from popular movies, although I’m not sure I agree with him on every “Mirror Moment". I think some movies have more than one of these for the main character. 

But the concept is a strong one and one that I think is going to help me write.

The point is, once you figure out the Mid-Point, from there you decide the character’s mindset before all this starts, or their ordinary world, which Jim calls the “Pre-story Psychology". And then you look forward to the end where they actually make the change or “Transformation". Once you’ve done this work, your structure is a triangle and the mid-point is the pinnacle. This method not only gets you thinking about what your story is about, which is critical, but it also insures you’re looking at both the beginning and the end, which should tie together in meaningful ways.

As an aside, I’m someone who likes to write an ending in a way that a reader can’t just flip to the back of the book and see what happens. I want my endings to only make sense if you’ve been along for the entire ride. I think this method will help me achieve that goal faster and more efficiently.

I found Jim’s idea to be a fresh one and a great way to begin work on a novel. He includes a number of other little gems in this Amazon ebook in the form of structural devices that he says should be in every good story.  Some I’d heard before, but some were new. And it’s not a long read so you can whip through it in an hour or two, though I spent a couple more hours making notes to add to a plotting structure template for novels. I found it well worth my time for the price, which is less than the cost of a latte at Starbucks.

He claims this method will work no matter what kind of writer you are, whether you’re a “pantser” meaning you just sit down and start writing, a plotter who likes to have forty scenes planned before the writing begins, or someone in between. And he provides a concrete how-to strategy to use this method for each of the writing types he identifies.
Jim also claims this will work for every genre, whether the story is literary or action-packed drama. I think he’s right. It’s certainly helped me get my arms around my work in progress. I’d love to know what you think.

PS: I wrote this assuming I was preaching to the choir. So if you're new to fiction writing and I lost you with this piece, not to worry. Just ask around. We all started somewhere and helping each other is what a writer's group is for.

About the Author:  Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for her fiction and non-fiction. New York Times #1 bestselling author Debbie Macomber said about Linda’s new novel: "This is fast-paced, thrilling, edge-of-the-seat reading. The Prophetess One: At Risk had me flipping the pages and holding my breath." The Prophetess One: At Risk has garnered three national awards: the 2012 International Book Award, the 2011 Global eBook Award, and the 2011 Millennium Star Publishing Award. An iPhone App of her popular “Pitch Your Book” workshop is available in the Apple iTunes store. Visit her website:

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