AVOID A SAGGING MIDDLE
By DEE LLOYD
No middle should sag. The dragging, sagging pace of the middle of a romance is every bit as unattractive as the lax muscles of a person’s physical midsection. No matter how enthralling your opening chapters are, you will lose your grip on the reader’s attention if nothing significant happens or if the pace falters midway in your story. The last thing you want is the reader to think, “She already told me that!”
Even if your hero is irresistible and your heroine attractively strong and feisty, a romance plot can too easily become predictable. Because the reader has chosen a Romance novel, she is confident that no matter how unsuited the hero and heroine are at the beginning of the story and how determined they are not to give in to the explosive chemistry between them, somehow they will end up enjoying a satisfying Happily Ever After. In your early chapters, you have created engaging scenes that showed a major difference in the life styles and attitudes of your hero and heroine. However, many pages must be filled before the HEA can occur. That is the challenge.
You have already had the hero and heroine think the situation through logically and in detail. They have examined the possible consequences of becoming closer and even trusting each other. Usually, each of them has learned caution from past disastrous relationships. Once the reader understands all this, any restatement of their inner struggles threatens to be repetitious and causes your middle to sag. It is important to avoid too much introspection.
One way to avoid emotional doldrums is to throw some conflict into dialogue between the H and H. The disagreement can range from a passionate discussion to a heated argument. The topic does not necessarily have to do with the central romantic conflict. It can be a difference of opinion about anything from the arts to sports that reveals a particular sensitivity or loyalty in one or both of the characters.
Then, of course, a well-written sex scene changes the pace. It also shows a lot of basic character traits. For example, the quiet, controlled heroine may be adventurous, even aggressive, when she lets her hair down.
A little humor never hurts. If it is natural for your hero to lighten an awkward situation with a quip or even a little slapstick, that adds to his appeal.
My personal solution to the problem of the sagging midsection of a novel is to write Romantic Suspense. I remember Carly Bishop saying at a Rocky Mountain Writers’ Conference in Denver years ago that she loved writing Romantic Suspense. She laughed and said, “If the middle of your romance starts to go flat, just throw in another narrow escape!”
I agree. The simplest way to avoid the slowing of pace in the middle chapters is to begin with a second important plot line. If you create a mystery or a threat of some sort, you gain a lot of flexibility. A suspense story gives you plenty of hooks to keep the pages turning. When you have both the hero’s and the heroine’s minds working on the solution of the mystery or the method of capturing the bad guy(s), you have the ability to switch gears often and effectively.
A problem they must solve together gives them a common ground. When they push their differences aside to focus on the danger, they can discover that their goals are not as different as they once thought they were.
In my Romantic Suspense novel, GHOST OF A CHANCE, Milly is enjoying the freedom of running her own life after the death of her beloved if controlling husband who tended to make plans and expect her to follow them. She had done this quite happily at the time but is not about to tie herself to another military man who is used to issuing orders. When she and Bret are thrown together by her twin sister’s ghost in order to solve her twin’s murder, they must work together on the task. Learning to understand and trust each other and ultimately falling in love follows naturally.
When you are dealing with a life or death situation, it is easy to leave the romantic problems for a moment. When the pace begins to bog down, you can always put the hero or the heroine in danger.
You must never forget that the romance is still the main focus of the novel. A Romantic Suspense is first and foremost a Romance. You can ensure that by solving the mystery first, before your hero and heroine finally admit that they are meant to be together.
Whatever subgenre of Romance you write, maintaining an escalating pace is vital. To do that you must constantly keep in mind the goal that must be reached. Obviously, the first goal is the Happy Ever After. Your subgenre goal (saving the world, finding the killer, etc.) comes next.
Make sure the resolution of your plot has a significant obstacle that must be overcome, a villain to be defeated or a goal that must be reached.
Make sure the consequences for failure to reach the goal or defeat the obstacle are well-defined. The penalty must be clear in reader’s mind throughout.
Don’t meander. Each scene should have a focus…explore character, setting, advance plot, introduce character. Don’t deviate from the plot line or lose sight of the conflict.
Don’t explain too much. Give information once.
The only other advice I can give you is to edit your work ruthlessly. Trim away anything that is not necessary. Create your scenes with strong strokes. Use the telling detail rather than long paragraphs of description, especially in the middle of your story. Once the reader understands the complex situation you have set up, she wants you to get moving on the solution.
Good luck with your writing!
About Dee Lloyd
Growing up in Timmins, in its gold mining heyday, gave Dee Lloyd her love of dramatic scenery, strong men and independent women. It taught her nothing is impossible with determination and hard work. Still in grade school, she told a reporter for the Timmins Daily Press that she was going to be a writer. Many careers–ranging from selling in a music store to teaching creative writing–later, she is doing just that.
Dee is now the award-winning author of seven romantic suspense and paranormal romance novels. TIES that Blind won the EPPIE Award for best contemporary romance. Her paranormal/reincarnation/ghost novel, OUT of HER DREAMS, was the 2010 EPIC award winner for Paranormal Romance. It was also a nominee for Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for best Paranormal Romance.
Dee was married to Terry Sheils, award-winning author of horror, mystery, and fantasy, for over forty years. Dee states, “Writing has always been as essential as breathing in our house.”
Dee’s life is full. She lives with a wild and wonderful Mini-labradoodle named Meg. Her daughters are supportive and dynamic. And of course, the grandchildren are exceptional. The icing on the cake is the growing number of enthusiastic readers who write to tell her they enjoy her books. Visit Dee’s website for news, free excerpts, short stories, and a free downloadable cookbook. Visit her website at http://www.deelloyd.com.
Find Dee on her author page at Writers Exchange: http://www.writers-exchange.com/Dee-Lloyd/
Dee is the author of:
Dangerous Waters Trilogy
Dashing heroes set out to protect the women of their dreams as they travel by boat over the Caribbean and the Bahamas, even to a clear lake in Muskoka, where romance–and deception–will take them all into Dangerous Waters.
Inheriting Pop’s property brings Cadie unexpected complications ranging from a devastating, antisocial tenant to a potential gold mine, a silent, deadly enemy, and, as if that isn’t enough, love when and where she least expects it.
…Mine by Dee Lloyd sure is one of those books where you wish it were a movie because of all the action and suspense in this one story…
~ Fallen Angel Reviews
TIES That Blind
A body in a garage. A revolver in a locked car. A chance meeting of two old friends on a plane. Is this a happy reunion…or a devious frame-up for murder?
The Risa Vitale that Adam Taggart remembers as a skinny daredevil kid trailing him around the ski club never showed any signs of becoming the attractive woman who greets him as he disembarks from a flight. His uncomplicated happiness at their reunion, however, ends shortly after she offers him a ride. Finding a revolver under his seat and a pool of blood in the back of her van quashes any hope of attraction. The biggest romance killer of all: The dead body of his stepsister in Risa’s parents’ garage!
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