Beginnings, Middles and EndingsSo we continue our writing journey with beginnings, middles and endings.
At this point, you should have concocted your characters and a realistic realm, world or whatever dominion you have chosen to place your ‘players’ in to begin their journey. Next, you will need to work on the action and plot, enticing your reader further into your story. Every novel should have a beginning, middle and an end. Short of these important things, your novel will be a lemon, a no-hoper, a non-starter and an utter washout.
If you aren’t sure what each of these things should be, take a look at the layout below, you will ascertain what origins of your novel fit into each division.
Beginning:- Birth/Current Situation/Basics/Setting the Scene
Middle:- Life/Conflict and Stressors/Confrontation/Relationships/Hardships
End:- Death/Loss/Resolution/New Order/Finality
At the ‘beginning’ of your manuscript, introduce your main character as soon as possible or as soon as you can. The beginning of your novel should be anywhere from 1 to 15 pages, if you go much further than this, you will more than likely lose your reader, due to lack of direction and the fact that nothing much is happening, your reader will be thinking ‘What is going off, who is this about?’ You need to firmly establish who your main character is, plus other important details such as, when it is set, where they live, and what they’re doing. The easiest way to remember this is:- who, when, where and what. For example, your main character, let’s call him Sam, is taking a gap year from Uni and is planning to travel around Peru, perhaps he is planning to meet up with a couple of friends at some point in Lima, but for the start he is travelling alone.
Now we come to the ‘middle’ of your manuscript, and to some extent this can be quite deceiving, since it actually takes up the majority of your novel. The start of the middle is the first and most crucial turning point at this stage of your writing, the precise moment at which your main character’s life changes for better or worse (for instance, the bus Sam was travelling on through over winding mountain pass, is washed over the edge by a freak mud slide, leaving him the only survivor stuck at the bottom of a ravine surrounded by jungle and mountains with no hope of rescue in the immediate future) and the key plot is revealed. As in the preceding paragraph, this should happen around page 15 (ish) if you want to keep your reader attentive and hungry for more. From this point on, there should be character development and growth with several subplots unravelling and shortly after the first turning point is ‘the point of no return.’ What happens to your character that means they can’t change their mind/situation? (The bus crash) Why do they have to go on the journey? (He has no choice if he wants to survive) This is the precise point of no return, where your story starts to surge forward.
Obviously, you will need to introduce subplots to keep things interesting and to keep the pace, (for instance, Sam actually got on the wrong bus and was heading away from Lima deeper into the jungle, he could also run across some rebels in the jungle and a game of cat and mouse ensues as he tries to evade his pursuers – there are many permutations or deep doodoo for you to drop your main character into to keep the excitement happening.) Keep doing this for the majority of the manuscript, keep that engine running and on full choke, your main character needs to be in the thick of things with the pressure on, and then you come to the second turning point - the thing or the big surprise that shocks the reader and your character, this is usually something that no-one saw coming and usually happens just before the big climax. This is the thing that puts your reader on the edge of their seat, gripping the book so tightly; their knuckles are white as they frantically read on to discover what is going to happen next.
The big climax should really be in the last few pages of your manuscript. If you have your climax closer to the middle of the middle, then your reader will be bored beyond imagination reading the rest of the book because there’s nothing to look forward to, resolution has met its maker and there’s no point going on. But, you already know this!
Finally, as soon as you’ve dispensed with the climax and all the emotions/trauma/relief (i.e.: Sam, after being captured by the rebels, tortured and beaten, escapes and makes it out of the jungle alive, just.) You have the desired conclusion and you move on to the ‘end’ of your manuscript post haste, wrap it up and tie a nice neat bow around it. This segment of the story should be very short and whatever you do, don’t be tempted to drag out the ending with long explanations as this will culminate in your big climax becoming an anti-climax faster than you can say: The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, and you leave your reader feeling robbed, annoyed and cheated. So, as I said a few lines previously, tie up all the loose ends swiftly in a nice neat bow and type ‘The End.’
Thanks for stopping by and until next time...