Droopy Middle

08 Apr

A story is kind of like a sandwich. I know I’ll have bread at the beginning and end, but what comes in the middle is wide open. PBJ? Turkey and swiss? BLT? The middle is what makes the sandwich, and also the story, unique.

We had a tie for the best comments this week.  Katie says:

Most of my writing experience has come in the form of a journal or school papers, but it is usually always the same. You know what you want to write about and sometimes you are even lucky enough to know how to start and how to end your writing. The middle is tricky. I think the key is to not overdo it. It is easy to get carried away (I have a habit of including minute facts and irrelevant details) and fill your middle with too much unnecessary “stuff”. So to make the most of the middle, I guess I try to make sure that it compliments the beginning and end. Cut out the extra “stuff” that doesn’t matter and make sure there is just enough middle.

I agree that the key is not to overdo it.  Going back to the sandwich, Pittsburgh has a restaurant called Primanti Brothers that puts meat, cheese, saurkraut, and even french fries on their sandwiches. Some people (ahem, husband) think they have too much”stuff.” It is hard not to overdo it.

Ellen said:

It may be exasperating but I really like to just stop, highlight the trouble spots bits where it needs work or more or less info and send the half-finished draft to my lovely sisters. This to me signifies a break when I can sit back and think about the piece. Then I usually print it out, write all over it with arrows and numbers rearranging the paragraphs and pages, tighten sentences, add notes for new material, cut stuff. By that time my sisters will have usually sent suggestions which probably no longer apply.

Ellen brings up another key point.  To decide what is extra “stuff,” it is important to reflect on what is already written.

To write fiction, especially longer fiction, I have to know a lot of background information about my characters, the setting, and the events. Sometimes the reader needs to know it too. Sometimes not. So how do I pick and choose what to include? I follow a simple rule: if it moves the story along or is necessary for the plot later, I include it. Otherwise it is just fluff.

Why is this so hard for me? Sometimes I like the fluff. It might have a phrase I like or a line I think is particularly witty. It is hard to cut that kind of fluff. But, it is necessary. Fluff belongs on my peanut butter sandwich, but not in the middle of my story.

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Posted by on April 8, 2011 in Middles


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