Attention fiction writers: I just read a terrific new book by my friend James Scott Bell and I want you to know about it. The title is Write Your Novel from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers, and Everyone in Between.
Briefly, Jim’s observation is that in the middle of every good novel there is a pivotal “look in the mirror” moment that the main character must have. Jim documents this through books we’ve read and films we’ve seen. This midpoint in the story, Jim claims, isn’t a scene; it’s a “magic moment”—a moment within a scene. “Find [this magic moment] in your novel,” Jim says, “and everything will radiate from it.”
This magic moment is pivotal because it’s when the character really begins his or her transformation. And, yes, great novels do necessarily involve the transformation of the protagonist. Once you know how your character will transform (by seeing his or her magic moment), you can easily build toward that moment in the early part of the book and toward the actual transformation that will occur toward the end of the book.
If you’re having trouble with your present work-in-progress, perhaps a good place to troubleshoot is in the middle. Does your character have a “magic moment”? If so, does everything prior to that moment build effectively towards it or do you wander away from that direct line to what should be your pivotal point in the book (not the climax, however)? If your novel has no such magic moment, or if you envision no transformation of your character, perhaps that’s why it remains unsold.
Even if you’re publishing successfully now, I want you to order Jim’s book for your library. The book is short (86 pages) and the price is a bargain ($2.99 for the Kindle edition). I bought the print edition at a conference for $7. Such a deal.
Now you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to read it again. It’s that good!