December 2021 Newsletter

The Old and the New

Out with the old and in with the new isn’t working so well for me this year. For example, at a time when some of my friends send virtual Christmas cards, this year I decided to send out real stamped cards. For me, the process involves looking back at the cards I received last year and circling the years when I received responses in the address book that I’ve kept for twenty years. I used to send as many as fifty, this year about half that for one reason or another.

As it happens, this year the day I did my Christmas cards, I woke up at 4 AM as my interminable Ya Gotta List rattled through my head. So, I ended up getting only two and a half hours of sleep, an insomnia record for me, and awoke in a terrible mood. But later, the process of looking at last year’s cards and newsletters, locating current addresses for a couple of my nieces and a nephew on Facebook, writing Hi along with a specific name and Love, Juliet and Jess inside the cards, addressing them, and putting on stamps and return address labels made me feel better. Plus, most of the cards I sent this year featured two dozen cats gathered around a piano. The joy of that card became my joy as well and healed my head.

From the topic of the old tradition of sending holiday cards, let’s move on to the new . . .

Not long ago I crashed my old computer by opening too many apps at once. And my daughter Jess decreed that its days were numbered because the hard drive was dying. (Ten years is old for computers.) So, I bought a new one. That meant that I needed to get used to a new computer, a new version of Microsoft Word, and a new version of Photoshop. (For instance, the new version of Word somehow put Calibri in my font box instead of the Times New Roman I’ve used in the past and I haven’t figured out how it did that.) Also, these things required new user names and new passwords. I don’t especially care for the passwords some alien AI app assigns because I just can’t remember those jumbles of letters and numbers. Instead, I like to devise my own with phrases I can recall and put together with a variety of upper and lower cases, numbers, and possibly a special character now and then.

All this stuff takes time and leads me to my last WiP Report of 2021. It looks like I won’t complete the current draft of Die by the Sword this year after all and move on to revising and editing. But when things settle down, I will.

Have a happy, healthy, and safe New Year, my friends, and I’ll get back to you in 2022. All the best, Juliet

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November 2021 Newletter

Cat Chores and More

Like my daughter and I, our black Bombay cat named Safa has his chores around the house. (We first named him Satyavan and his sister Savitri from the Hindu story about a couple similar to the Greek Orpheus and Eurydice, only in the Hindu version the wife rescues her hubby from the Underworld. According to a young friend of my daughter’s, Safa means clown in Hindi.)

1) Safa’s first chore of the day is to act as a four-legged, furry alarm clock ramming about the house and yowling around seven in the morning. (He adjusted fairly fast to the recent time change.) Later on, he helps us make our beds. (Sometimes he hinders us, though.)

2) Sitting on the microwave, he monitors meal preparation, starting with breakfast. He also sits on the cable box in the family room and observes us while my daughter and I exercise with our online service.

3) He helps us get even more exercise by playing hide and seek with us. Sites he hides in include under the covers of my bed, under chairs, and inside the big cardboard box his multi level cat condo came in. (He mostly ignores the latter.)

4) He spends considerable time during the day warming the seat of his favorite chair in the living room. In the evening, during t. v. time in the family room, he warms my daughter’s lap or mine when she’s not available.

5) Recently, he even volunteered to help me promote my books by posing next to them for a photo.

All the while Safa keeps busy with his chores, he maintains his status as the world’s most adorable cat. This isn’t just idle bragging. A few years ago an employee of the Emergency Vet Clinic said that thirty people had to say goodbye to Safa when he left. And recently our regular vet took pictures of him to share with her daughter. The vet says she would adopt Safa in a heartbeat if for some reason we no longer wanted him. As if . . .

Ya Gottas (continued)

In my October newsletter, I lamented about the lengthiness of my to-do lists and how much I suffered from a case of Ya Gottas, at least partly cured by letting myself write in order to give me joy and feeds my soul.

Well, I am happy to report that since then I have come upon another cure–creative scheduling–that is, spacing way out the tasks gotta do. I’m telling myself I don’t have to do thems all at once or even all of them this year. It really, really helps to remove stress from my life by planning far ahead.

So my tentative publication date for my next novel is Memorial Day weekend in 2022, partly because during the first part of next year, I want to reboot my Calendar Mystery series month by month, for example, January Jinx in January 2022, and make them available on other platforms like Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

A Mini WiP Report

I hoped to tell you all that I’d completed the current draft of Die by the Sword by now. But due to distractions, I have 66,610 words and 266 pages of what probably will end up as about 90,000 words and 325 pages or so. It’s a bit hard to estimate how many words and pages I have to go because my characters are popping up with new ideas from time to time. For instance, the police detective in it has decided—all on his own and without finding out what this author wants—to go undercover at a Renaissance Festival sort of thing dressed like a wench. Sigh . . .

Meanwhile, I’m making my boxed set of the Calendar Mysteries, Books 1 – 3 along with the short story “Detectives’ Honeymoon” available at www.amazon.com/dp/B07QDKF413 for only $2.99 from December 5 through December 9 and www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07QDKF413 for only £2.99. Treat yourself or gift a friend with this big book that follows my business girl Minty Wilcox and dashing detective Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago.

Best, Juliet

Busier than a button on the . . .

Hi, Everyone!

As my dear old darling dad used to say, it’s been busier than a button on a back house door at the Kincaid house this past month. Whew!

For instance, the ceiling in the front bathroom of our house had been leaking since the summer of 2019. No need to deal with it during the drought and no way to deal with it during the lock down. But this month, the time came for me to deal with roofers and assorted personnel of my insurance company before the ceiling fell on our heads. The process got a little messy especially when the salesman from the company I hired found a raccoon’s nest on the roof beneath the trumpet vine that birds and critters enjoyed all summer. It was so beautiful. But it should come back next year.

Here’s a picture of the finished roof. That’s 40-year shingle up there now, I’ll have you know.

I’ve been enjoying my multi-media art class very much though watercolor remains challenging. I got in a hurry with this painting, tentatively called “Ghost Tree: Tulip Poplar,” the first in a series about trees that no longer live in my neighborhood. And so I botched the roof on a house in the neighborhood (unlike our new roof) . Maybe I can fix it the painting. Maybe not. We’ll see.

In spite of all of these distractions, I am making progress on the WiP, Die by the Sword, so now the novel is almost 23,000 words long and close to Plot Point 1 when the protagonist Vanessa Price Mathison makes an important decision that moves the story into the second story arc. I’m especially enjoying the way Van’s sort-of-boyfriend Guy Truelove is developing in this version of the book that I’ve tried to write several times before.

Some of you who have read my calendar mysteries will recognize Van’s middle and last names. At this point I haven’t quite figured out the connection to business girl Minty Wilcox and dashing detective Daniel Price, let alone developed a family tree, but in time I will.

Speaking of that series, in case you missed it, Apart in April, Book 5 and the fourth novel in the series, is now available as an eBook for $4.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B095J4BB94 and also as a paperback for $14.99 from Amazon (ISBN 9780996160490).

 

 

Also currently available is Novel Basics, my complete yet concise guide to writing a novel, at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP. It’s perfect for those of you planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year. The book will be only $0.99 from October 24 through October 30, but if you need it sooner, the eBook is now $3.99. The paperback in “easy on the eye” 14-point font is $8.99.

I’ll be back next month. Meanwhile, stay safe and well, Juliet

August 2021 Newsletter

My Once and Future Novel (Part 2, I think)

Hi, All!

A few nights ago, I thought about retiring on my birthday coming up really soon on 9/11/2021. I’ll be eighty, and maybe it’s time to stop. I told myself that maybe I’d be happy and fulfilled reading and reviewing other people’s books and taking weekly art classes.

But who am I kidding? Nothing gives me more joy than being lost in the fiction I’m writing. Besides, it’s back. . . In this case instead of a monster, I’m talking about my once and future novel, the one that I’ve worked on for about three decades, the one set in part at a Renaissance Festival sort of event and in part at activities of a group similar to the Society for Creative Anachronism. This is a book concept that just won’t let me go.

Over the past thirty years, this book has gone from a fairly conventional detective mystery with one protagonist to suspense with quite a different protagonist. Overall, I think I’ve produced three different detective mysteries and two versions of the basic story as a novel of suspense. In fact, one of the challenges for me, now that I’m having at it again, is to locate scenes I vividly recall writing though when and in which notebook and which digital file, I’m unsure. I know that some of you have read an earlier version. In fact, I still have your comment sheets along with print-outs. But right now I can’t remember where I put them.

The characters have undergone several variations as well. For instance, I have two characters whose role is providing the protagonist (whoever the heck that turns out to be) with information about the Ancient Ways Society. The twosome started out as a lesbian couple, one white and the other Black. Eventually, they became an elderly man and not so elderly woman with a very large Great Dane. As I embark on the final version, I’m not sure I really need the dog. But I really can’t predict at this point.

The book also has a couple of working titles: Death in Shining Armor and Die by the Sword. I took a poll on Facebook recently and most of the people responding favored the first one, as did I. But once I really got into the first chapter, I decided that Die by the Sword was the better choice. But you know what? The book is alive and well and I’m looking forward to completing it.

Meanwhile, I’ve had lots of distractions. For one thing we’ve been dealing with a leaky roof and predatory roofers, but we’ve found a decent one now. But once the dust settles on that and other issues, I hope to plunge back to the book . . . I’ll keep you posted on the project next month.

Best, Juliet

 

April 2021 WiP Report

I hoped to report that I’ve finished my current Work-in-Progress, Apart in April, Book 5 of my Calendar Mystery series.

But it’s not happening, partly because my characters keep talking to me as I write. One of them will say, “How about I do this?” Another might say, “I wouldn’t do that! Take it out!” Or worst of all, some person in the book will say, “I’m bored.”

It’s practically axiomatic that every time a writer changes something, s/he introduces at least one error like a missing so there’s nothing for it but to edit each and every line of each and every page with a ruler on paper and/or by sliding the cursor down the margin, and/or reading each and every page word by word out loud at least once if not TWICE. (Did you see the glitch in the previous sentence in the previous sentence? [Repetition is another kind of glitch that often happens when the writer is switching stuff around.])

I’ve rushed the process before and ended up publishing a book or story that wasn’t ready yet. I’m not doing that this time. I have only forty pages to go in this draft, so it will be done by April 30 for sure. But then I will make myself take as long as the book and its characters demand for one last edit. After I’m done and I’ve tweaked the cover, too, I’ll begin the production phase, leaving time to set up the pre-order and all that other stuff. I’ll let you know when Apart in April is ready for you to pre-order at a reduced price.

In closing, an observation, especially for my fellow old fogey friends . . . At this stage of writing, I have to hold the entire three hundred pages of the book in fairly specific detail in my head. (Since I’ve made so many changes over the four drafts of this book, sometimes I have to go back and check the most recent draft to see what actually is in there.) A person with dementia can’t do that, and so I’ll end this WiP Report by highly recommending writing a novel as a preventive measure against senility.

Best, Juliet

P. S. It’s spring and doing stuff like potting these plants shown above is another distraction I’m dealing with.

 

Been a rough month but . . .

Hi, Everybody!

Here’s the cover for the fourth novel, fifth book in my calendar mystery series featuring the former business girl, Minty Wilcox, now Price, and her dashing detective husband Daniel, in Kansas City, MO, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago.

I had lots of trouble making this cover fit into the birthstone theme of the series. I mean what can you do with white for goodness’ sake? But finally this version is coming along though it needs tweaking here and there. FYI: I stole the lilacs from a lady’s hat that appeared in The Delineator of August 1901. And a while ago, my cousin Sarah Faye Morse Meurer very kindly sent me the photos of our grandfather Miles Smith and our grandmother Juliet Perkins Smith.

Here’s the blurb for the book: After a personal tragedy on Easter Sunday, April 7, 1901, Minty Wilcox Price runs away from home, strewing letters behind her like Hansel’s bread crumbs for her husband Daniel to find. Can he overcome his own grief and anger to figure out where she’s gone and with her solve the case of “The Ravished, Murdered Chambermaid”?

I’d appreciate any feedback on the cover and blurb you’d care to give.

As for the book itself, I hoped to be farther along with the final draft by now.  But life has thrown some interference our way this past month that has taken up my time. For example, though we didn’t lose our power or heat during the recent Arctic blast, our water pipes froze when the temperature reached 15 below here near Kansas City. But my daughter Jess and our next-door neighbor’s son made a sort of bucket brigade to bring water to our house. And our pipes thawed on their own when the temperature moderated a bit.

The cold also complicated our grocery shopping. Lately we’ve shopped on line, and then Jess drove to the store to pick it up. But there was no way either of us wanted to go out on snowy streets when it was 7 below zero outside. So we tried to reschedule at first and then to cancel. But apparently their shopping app doesn’t handle changes well, so the shopper shopped our order not once but twice. And even after several phone calls and twelve days, the charge remains on my credit card. Sigh . . .

But I’m making progress on my project overall, and probably I’ll meet my deadline, the end of April. Also I’m struck by the way I still learn lessons about the process, or in this case, relearn them. For example, yesterday I struggled all morning to get information about a new setting, a ranch in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Originally, I’d planned on asking a friend of mine if I could tour her family’s ranch. In a pandemic? Well, no, I literally can’t go there. So then I spun my wheels all morning looking for virtual tours and taking two dozen screen shots of prairie hills. But then finally, I remembered the sage advice I received back in the 80’s from a writer friend. “Think film,” she said. So then I CUT TO the front door of the farmhouse I needed Daniel to visit and blew that writer’s block up.

Stay safe and well, my friends. Get the shot soon if you haven’t already. (I have an appointment for next Wednesday.) Best, Juliet

 

P. S. Mischief in March, the third in my calendar mystery series, is only 99 cents from March 3 through March 9 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XR1STRN
It’s also a penny less than a pound at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XR1STRN

 

 

For an even better bargain, you can buy the boxed set that includes the January Jinx, Fatal February, and Mischief in March, the first three novels of the series, and the bonus short story “Detectives’ Honeymoon” from March 24 through March 30 for only $2.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QDKF413  (British friends, for a similar bargain price, check http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07QDKF413)

WiP Report January 2021

Last Friday, I finished what I hope will be the next-to-the-last draft of Book 5 of my Calendar Mystery series, set in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago for a business girl named Minty Wilcox and a dashing detective named Daniel Price. (Just practicing my blurb here . . .) The next day we ordered BBQ carry-out for a celebratory dinner. Baby back ribs! Yum!

In its binder, the book weighs 6.4 pounds which makes for quite a weighty tome though I hope of course that it won’t feel like that for readers when it’s done. The text now is 306 pages and 86,489 words long. I started it on November 1 for NaNoWriMo, so it took me 83 days for an average of 1,042 words a day. That’s really not bad considering everything that’s been going on including a very weird holiday season, the pandemic, and the political turmoil.

An FYI for my fellow indie authors: whenever I start a novel, I format it for its eventual publication, that is, with 6” by 9” pages, 0.75” margins, 1.15 line spacing throughout including between paragraphs, 12-point font, usually Book Antiqua, all paragraphs except the first in a section or chapter indented 0.3”. I also mark all section breaks with <> <> <> because I never know where they’ll end up after revisions. Plus, I paginate the pages, create different first pages for the starts of chapters, and different odd and even pages for the rest. And yes, I type my first drafts and all the rest. All of this lets me get a feel for the overall proportions of the book and about where to place the plot points in later drafts.

For more guidance, check out my Novel Basics, a concise yet complete guide to brainstorming, drafting, and revising a novel available in print from Amazon. com and as an eBook at www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP . . .

Now back to the report . . . If I can cut the 10% that Stephen King says in his author’s memoir On Writing he cuts from the first drafts of his books, Book 5 of my Calendar Mystery series will be around 78,000 words or 275 pages long. Hopefully, I will get it out by the end of April. (The tabs on the book shown in the photo on the left mark pages where I need to do some editing. Yikes!)

I’ll let you know how it’s going in next month’s WiP Report. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for the fun short story “The 9th Street Gang” free from 02/03/21 through 02/07/21 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B079YYVTTX and Book 2 of the Calendar Mystery series Fatal February, on sale for only $0.99 at  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM and £0.99 at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B017081JHM from 02/10/21 through 02/16/21.

Novel Basics Card # 16

Novel Basics Card # 16

The Subplot Card

The subplot card asks the question,

“What else happens in my novel?”

The novel is a huge beast and needs a lot of plot to reach the minimum required 40,000 words that will go into it. One way a writer often finds those words is with subplots. (Please note that the subplot card, like the wall card, might be a placeholder.)

Indeed, though the publishing industry is always changing, it’s still fairly common advice in publishing that if an author wants a career, she will write a series or trilogy on the theory that the more you write the more you sell. And while the reader expects the major “who wants what?” plot to be resolved in each novel, the subplots and the continuing characters in the series often serve to pull the reader from one novel to the next.

Exactly what the subplot contains depends in part on the genre of the novel. For example, in romantic suspense, the love relationship provides the main plot line and the mystery/suspense provides the subplot with lots of fun interferences with the main plot in play. If you’re writing a mystery novel, you’ll flip that with the mystery plot primary and a romantic subplot secondary.

Many writers, no matter the genre of the novel, might introduce the protagonist’s family and/or friends into the novels to pull the readers from book to book. Will Stephanie Plum favor Ranger or Morelli this time? the fans of Janet Evanovich’s very popular and long-lasting series wonder. They also wonder about the goings-on of Stephanie’s family, especially the outrageous Grandma Mazur.

Each novel in my Calendar Mystery series has its own murder mystery, resolved by the end of the book. But each might also have two or three subplots that carry over from book to book. January Jinx, the first in my calendar mystery series, has three subplots: Minty Wilcox’s goal of getting a suitable job for a woman in Kansas City around 1900, the romantic subplot with Daniel Price, and Minty’s on-going relationships with her family members. Also, Fatal February, the second novel in the series, has an additional mystery subplot besides the major plot line. Mischief in March, the third novel, has a romantic subplot that features two long time supporting characters in the series.

If you look closely at the picture of Card #16, you’ll notice that the subplot has its own plot line. Very typically, the subplot begins after the major plot is in place at the start of the book. The subplot might end pretty much before the second set-up scene, or it might end in the dénouement. Some authors put a cliffhanger related to a subplot on the last page of one novel to hook the readers into anticipating the next one. For example, I put a cliffhanger at the end of Mischief in March setting up a new mystery plot that I later resolved in a short story.

I’d be wary of doing that however. Some readers deeply resent that sort of ending. And it also put me in a bit of a pickle of how to resolve the issue for my readers in a timely manner. Ultimately, I wrote and published the short story called “Detectives’ Honeymoon,” later included in Old Time Stories, Book 4 of my Calendar Mystery series and also in the boxed set of the first three novels plus that story.

The boxed set, nearly 1,000 pages of historical mystery fiction, is now available for only $8.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QDKF413

Next will come Card # 17.

Novel Basics Cards # 14 & 15

Card # 14, the First Set-up Scene Card asks the question,

“What leads to Act 2 of my novel?”

Near the end of Act 1 of your novel, after you’ve hooked your reader with the beginning scene and shown your protagonist and her world, you need a scene in which the protagonist commits to the action required in the book. Syd Field called it Plot Point 1 of a movie script and other authors have used the same term for the novel. But I prefer the term set-up since that’s what this scene does. Specifically, the first set-up scene sets up the action that follows in Act 2 in which the heroine confronts the problem and tries to resolve the situation by jumping the hurdles in her way.

It’s like the moment in a boxing match–after the fighter you favor has strutted into the ring, likewise his opponent–when the bell rings and one of boxers throws the first punch, thus setting the tone and character of the match. Or the tennis player puts the ball into play. The private eye might have signed the contract earlier, but now he emotionally commits to it.

In a romance, the heroine and her love interest, having met cute in Act 1, decide to try to make a go of it somehow.

In fantasy, the first set up happens when the hero accepts the call to adventure and sets off on his epic adventure through Middle Earth or goes off to Hogwarts for his first year of wizardry school.

In Theresa Hupp’s historical Western novels Lead Me Home and Forever Mine, the characters begin their journey on the Oregon Trail in the first set-up scene.

And now let’s move on to another pivotal part of your novel, the Second Set up Scene.

The Second Set-up Scene Card asks the question,

“How leads to Act 3 of my novel?”

Similar to the first set-up scene, the second set-up scene, more commonly called Plot Point 2, sets up Act 3 of the novel. That is, it sets up the climactic scene of the novel, the most intense scene of the novel, and also the aftermath of the climax, the dénouement. In the second set-up scene, for example, the hero prepares to make one more attempt to defeat the villain, or the antagonist throws one last, truly daunting challenge in the hero’s way. The protagonist girds her loins, or the villain musters his troops.

In Western fiction, the sheriff sets off to meet the swaggering bad guys in the middle of the street of the little cow town.

In romantic fiction, the hero prepares one last attempt to woo and win the gal he loves.

One of my all time favorite second set-up scenes in crime fiction appears in Dick Francis’s debut novel, Odds Against. Sid Halley, already handicapped with a missing hand, wakes up strapped to a boiler about to explode. Oh boy, you say to yourself, Will Sid get out of there in time to avoid dying? How will he do it? If he gets free, does he go after the bad guy and catch him? No spoilers from me. You have to read this great novel for yourself to find out.

Don’t worry if you don’t have much of an idea for this scene when you initially make out your cards. It will come.

Next time we’ll move on to one more plot card.

 

Novel Basics Cards # 12 & 13

Novel Basics: Card # 12
The Climax Card

The Climax Scene Card asks the question,
“What’s the high point of my novel’s plot?”

Back when I taught Creative Writing at one of America’s top community colleges, often as I introduced the topic of the moment of the highest intensity of your plot, the part of your plot that the entire book has led up to, some young male would snicker as he leaned over to the young female he wanted to impress and make some remark about climaxes that he figured that I wouldn’t understand because as a professor I was just too naïve about all such subjects.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s what it’s usually called, kiddo. Get over it,” I didn’t have time to say.

At any rate, the climax scene, aka the crisis and the catastrophe, can and often does show the do-or-die moment. It’s the highest point on the inverted check mark. Perhaps it involves the final confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist. Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey, his excellent book on mythic structure for fiction and scriptwriters, calls this scene “the ultimate ordeal.” In a coming-of-age novel or a novel of ideas, the strongest, most powerful and intense scene may be when the protagonist has an epiphany about himself or life itself.

Traditionally, the climactic scene brings about a change in the protagonist’s fate, for better–he gets the girl and lives happily ever after with her–or for worse–he dies.

It’s the point in the novel when the protagonist finally resolves the problem of the book or dies trying, when Captain Ahab, for instance, finally confronts the whale in Moby Dick and dies.

In a western, it might be the shoot-out between the sheriff and the leader of the robber gang. In a traditional British murder mystery, it’s the scene in the library when the detective reveals the identity of the killer. In a romance, the lovers resolve their differences at last. In a coming-of-age novel, it might be the scene in which the protagonist finally discovers the truth about her father or his mother. In Stephen King’s psychological horror thriller Misery, Paul Sheldon finally vanquishes his number one fan, the cruel nurse Annie Wilkes.

Sometimes the climax might be a fairly intimate scene, with just the villain and the hero duking it out in the dark. Many mysteries have this sort of pivotal scene, but some novels have much larger climactic scenes with whole armies facing each other on the battlefield. I’ve grown to admire the climactic scenes in the cozy mysteries of Nancy Martin and the romantic adventures of Janet Evanovich for the way both authors bring together every major character in a dramatic, yet comic scene that resolves the mystery at last.

An important tip: avoid letting another character rescue the protagonist at the climax, a fairly common mistake for beginners. In a good, solid plot, the protagonist’s lover can’t come riding up on a white horse, fell the villain, and cut the ropes that tie the damsel to the railroad track. If the damsel is the protagonist, she has to do all of that herself and have the villain’s neck under her dainty foot when the lover rides up on his white horse, slightly too late.

So at least tentatively figure out which of the obstacles the hero confronts is the most intense, the do-or-die moment for your book to describe briefly on your Climax Scene Card. Now let’s move on to another major scene of your novel.

Novel Basics: Card # 13
The Midpoint Scene

The Midpoint Scene Card asks the question,
“What happens halfway through my novel?”

About midway through your novel, you will need a scene in which the plot takes a surprising turn of events or shifts in a new direction. The midpoint scene is very important structurally for your novel. For one thing, if you have a strong midpoint scene, your novel will not sag in the middle, a flaw I’ve heard at least one successfully published novelist complain about.

The midpoint scene is sometimes called the rug pulling because things seem to have been going well for the protagonist, but now something happens that changes everything for him, so he might have to start over again or almost. (The middle point of a W is a really good way of representing this part of a novel.)

For example, after a great struggle involving many challenges, the lone mountain climber grabs a loose rock and falls into a crevasse and breaks her leg. Oh gosh, the reader says. Will she get out of there? And how? Will she make it to the top? (FYI: she can’t get rescued here either.)

In her Adam Dalgliesh novel Original Sin, P. D. James waits until midpoint for the murder to occur after we’ve gotten to know all the characters including the detectives, the suspects and the victim.

In a romance, the guy and the gal get to know each other or at least try to in the first part of Act 2, but about halfway through Act 2 they have a misunderstanding or a falling out. For example, around the middle of Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth Bennet for all the wrong reasons and quite rightly she refuses him.

The midpoint doesn’t necessarily have to be negative. Perhaps in the first half of the book, your heroine has overcome some of her initial obstacles to achieving her goal of getting the guy. And now, strengthened by surmounting earlier obstacles, she’s gained the ability to confront the more challenging obstacles to come in the second half of the novel.

In her excellent book How to Write Killer Fiction, Carolyn Wheat says that in the first half of Act 2 of a mystery we have the first detection. In this section typically the detective is on the false track or the bumbling police detective gets it all wrong. But at midpoint something happens that leads to the second detection and the correct solution. The detective’s prime suspect turns up dead, for instance. Or Miss Marple takes over the investigation.

In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen receives her first gift from her sponsor on page 188 of the 374-page novel.

Next time, we’ll consider two last major scenes you need to figure out as you’re brainstorming your novel.