As I launch into another revision of MAGE STORM, I’m moved to think about middles. Every part of a story has its own issues.
It can be hard to know where to start a story. In the middle of the action? Just before? Enough before the action starts to give the reader a sense of the world you’ve built? Each has its plusses and minuses.
Endings, I’ve never had too much of a problem with. They seem to follow naturally out of the story for me. Of course, you’ve got to make that climax work or the payoff won’t be very satisfying.
Middles, though. I think every writer at some point or another has a problem with the middle of a story. And that’s one of the problems with MAGE STORM. It took reading a mostly unrelated post during WriteOnCon to make me realize it. Just one of those epiphany moments that sometimes happen.
Yes, there’s a problem. The middle advances the story and moves things along toward the climax. The problem is that there are about four or five chapters in which my main character is mostly inactive. He’s not trying to do anything–well, except stay alive. What he does even makes sense. It’s just not interesting enough.
I knew there was a problem with those chapters the last time I read through it. I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I tried to solve it by cutting it down, making it shorter. That’s not a bad thing, but it didn’t get to the core of the problem. The real problem is that I have to give my protagonist something to do, even if it’s futile. Even if it’s counter-productive. He’s got to be acting, not reacting.
That’s the main thing I’ll be addressing in this revision, but it’s not all I’ll be doing.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, something else I learned at WriteOnCon was that there’s little to no market for stories with thirteen- to fourteen-year-old protagonists. While I never explicitly mention Rell’s age in the story, there are several things that make it clear that he’s going through puberty–and therefore right in this no-man’s-land age range. So, I’ll be cutting those references (voice changing, growth spurts, unprovoked emotional outbursts) and adjusting his relationship to one of his friends who happens to be a girl, ratcheting down the level of interest and the angst over how to approach it.
The third thing I’m going to do is to look critically at some of the scenes and see where I can apply a little help from The Emotion Thesaurus. This dandy little book is a great reference for showing the outward and inward signs of emotions.
That’s the plan for MAGE STORM. Once the revision is done, it’ll be back to querying this one again. It’s a story I really love. Plus, I’m itching to tell the sequels, too.