As I work through the plans for NaNoWriMo next month I have firmed up my structure enough to see the big hole in the first half. Now I’m working on how to fill it up.
The problem is, I went too quickly from the first major turn, when the main character commits to sticking with the story instead of just keeping things as they were, to the midpoint reversal, when the whole thing goes sideways. I tried the usual forms of denial: relabeling a later point in the story as the midpoint reversal, stretching out the little bit that I did have over multiple chapters, denying the importance of structure . . . all the usual dodges. But now I’ve finally buckled down and started brainstorming more events to fill in that hole.
I knew this would be the hardest part for me to plan. I finished planning the beginning early, and if this part runs a little over I know I can plan the ending in less time than allotted as well. I had a pretty clear vision of where the story starts and how it ends. If I can just get through this section, things will go smoothly from here on out.
This is life, isn’t it? We tend to know where we start from, and we often have at least some idea where we want to get to. It’s the middle where we always get stuck. How do I get from here to a more fulfilling job, to a closer relationship with my lover, to a stronger life for my kids? I’d rather have this struggle here, in a fictional world, where I can wave my wand and make things work out the way I want, than in the real world where people really get hurt.
And that’s what fiction is. We can explore the rough edges of life without real blood or tears. Struggles in this other world help strengthen our souls and our hearts, so that we can face the struggles in our real lives.
So as I figure out what obstacles to throw at my characters, I tell myself I’m smoothing the path for some reader somewhere in some tiny way. That’s why I read, and why I write. Fiction isn’t life, but it’s one way we learn to live our lives. Pretentious? Sure! But I think it’s still true.