Storytelling has a rhythm, a structure based on centuries of tales recounted wherever people sat together, around a fire, or a table, at a bedside or in a classroom. Three acts, a middle turning point, a crisis and a denouement comprise most. Simple enough, I hear someone say. Not at all.
Countless books on writing have dealt with the structure of novels, and now websites devoted to writing and bloggers eager to help other writers, do the same.
Until my current WIP(work-in-progress), I’d been a pantster, getting on with writing and worrying about structure later. This time, I plotted and outlined and followed my work count, making sure that the ends of the acts fell where they should, that there was a middle turning point, that a hook moment existed, not too far into the first act and so on, and so on. All great, until James Scott Bell wrote Write Your Novel from the Middle, a terrific(and short) book that defines a mirror moment, at the exact middle of the book, in which the protagonist assesses herself, and makes a decision based on her own psychology, what sort of person she is going to be, or assesses the forces against her and the certainty of her death, whether physical, psychological, or professional. From that, the writer develops the pre-psychology and post-psychology. So far so good. Then he writes about the two pillars, or doorways of no return. I was familiar with those. I’d read his excellent book Plot and Structure. So now the novel has three points: a first doorway at about 20% in, the mirror moment and 50% and the final act, again shorter at 20%. Other writers suggest longer first and final acts.
His description of the method is clear and freeing. Writing the mirror moment, the point of realization, means the first half must lead to this moment and the second half lead to the crisis and transformation.
My personal problem with this is that the WIP was more than half done when I read about the mirror moment. It turns out that this is not the problem, but part of the solution. I found my mirror moment, tucked into the middle of the book, where it belonged, and now I’m revising with a surer grasp of where I need to strengthen the plot or make the psychologic pressures clearer.
So yet again, I’m grateful to James Scott Bell, for his concise, entertaining and useful books about writing. I buy them on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/James-Scott-Bell/e/B000APSY8A or at Writers Digest Shops http://www.writersdigestshop.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=james+scott+bell
Disclaimer: No connection whatsoever with James Scott Bell, except that of reader and student.