Muddle in the Middle

Oh boy. It’s been a hellava month. As you can see here and here, I’ve been struggling to get through chapter 21. I finally did it, but then chapter 22 didn’t flow and I was right back where I started.

One of my struggles has been whether or not to include Medea’s POV. When I wrote the story, it was incredibly entertaining watching two very different personalities clash on the page. The problem was that I needed to make a plot out of what was essentially banter and training montage.

I succeeded, taking Nikolai’s little problem, which was originally solved immediately, and stretching it out over the course of the novel. What’s happening to him and why? Is it Medea? If not her, then who? It’s a mystery he has to solve.

Yay! I had a plot! Problem solved, right? Not exactly. This particular plot meant the reader couldn’t know Medea’s intentions. At all. It turned a character driven story into a plot driven one, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, this story works better when you can see both sides.

Still, I didn’t see how I could add Medea and have it work. In the original drafts, she’s a static character. There’s nothing for her to do. She’s just trying to train Nikolai the same way she’s trained a bunch of other wannabe dark wizards. Later in the series she has more to do, but she didn’t here. Also, it would kill a big reveal of her motivations at the end.

I toyed with adding her. I even wrote inserts for her, and rewrote a few scenes from her perspective. All of it sat in my Scrivener notes. I kept agonizing over it but didn’t want to mess with my main draft.

Then two things happened.

1. I got stuck in the middle. Part of the issue was that some chapters were falling flat. They felt boring. They were boring, because even though I knew everything going on behind the scenes, Nikolai and the reader didn’t. So it felt like “why is this scene even here?” Knowing Medea’s motivations make them work because the reader gets dramatic irony.

2. A friend of mine beta read the first few chapters and said with absolute conviction, “put her in.” This particular friend writes romance, a genre that is all about character-driven plots.

So I put her in, and suddenly my mess of “Where do I put this scene? Argh I can’t get this cause-effect chain to work!” was gone. I went from this to this:

[First image of multiple chapters with duplicate numbers, all out of order. Second image is clean chapters 20 through 26.]

Not only that, I’ve been able to dramatically up the tension in the middle of my book. I got to let Nikolai do something incredibly stupid that I’ve been dying for him to do, but couldn’t because it didn’t work in the old draft without him going off on a tangent. The way it’s written now, his behavior makes absolute sense within the context of the scene.

Hopefully it keeps flowing. I have about seven chapters left in my developmental edit.

Copyright © 2019 Val Neil. All rights reserved.

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