How You Can Have a Riveting Book Without Sagging Middles and Lackluster Endings
The following is an excerpt from my book, The Plot Thickens: 21 Ways to Plot Your Novel. A link to buy can be found here. The second chapter addresses how to avoid sagging middles and lackluster endings.
The novel’s middle is vital in holding your reader’s attention.
It’s where the protagonist will encounter the bulk of his trials and tribulations, where her strength will be tested and flaws exposed. It’s where you torture your darlings and force them through life-changing events. It sets up the major crisis at the end of the book and paves the way for a satisfying conclusion.
The middle is also where the writer is most likely to give up. After the first few chapters, he realizes the big bite he’s bitten off. How can he hold the tension? How can he up the stakes and plunge the antagonist into deeper and deeper trouble? In other words, how can he paint his hero into a corner then realistically get him out?
To avoid a sagging middle, introduce questions that make the reader hang around until he is satisfied with the answers. Click To Tweet
What is the protagonist’s challenge he’ll have to overcome? What does he truly, truly want? (Remember the external and internal goals). How will the antagonist stop him from reaching his goal? How will the external plot events magnify the protagonist’s internal conflicts? Will his flaws get in the way of his attempts to resolve the external plot?
If you challenge your protagonist, your reader will follow.
Don’t let your reader down at the end of the book. They’ve hung with you through hundreds of pages and expect a payoff.
Four common ending mistakes to avoid disappointing your reader:
- Ending too fast. Maybe the author was tired of the characters and wanted to move on. Maybe she didn’t know how to end it. Whatever the reason, don’t shortchange the reader. Remember, the ending is the last impression the reader has of your story. Give them satisfaction. They’ll remember when your next book is published.
- Endings that drag on too long. The opposite of the abrupt ending is the one that seemingly goes on forever. Maybe the author loved the story and characters so much she didn’t want to let go. Don’t lose your reader’s interest by going on too long. Leave them wanting more.
- The ho-hum ending. You’ve opened the book with an incredible hook, you’ve layered in plenty of conflict and tension, but the ending doesn’t live up to the buildup. Reward the reader for their patience with an ending that matches their expectations.
- The predictable or cliché ending. The fat high school kid attends his ten-year reunion, now trim and thin and a millionaire. He wins over the prom queen, takes to the stage as M.C. and has everyone eating out of his hand. This type of ending is too neat and unbelievable. Give the hero his just reward, but make him suffer to earn it.
The end should give resolution and catharsis to the reader. It should show how the protagonist has changed since the beginning of the story. Click To TweetTheir world should be back to normal, but a new normal. They’ve gone through an incredible journey and emerged a stronger person.
The climax resolves the external conflict, but don’t forget to give the reader resolution to the internal conflict, for it’s what they will most identify with. It should emotionally satisfy them and reinforce the faith they gave you on page one.
Tie up loose ends, resolve all conflicts, reinforce the theme, show the protagonist’s growth, and give the reader catharsis. Make the reader’s last experience with your book memorable.
This blog is part of February’s AuthorToolboxBlogHop.
The #AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event on the topic of resources and learning for authors. To learn more and/or sign up, visit here.
To purchase The Plot Thickens: 21 Ways to Plot Your Novel, from which this was taken, click on this link.
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