This post is about middle scenes and how I create mine. I love creating middle scenes. Mainly because I’m a detailed oriented person in my writing. Even as a reader, I like for the author to set the scene so that I can see what their character is seeing, doing and experiencing. So in my writing I try to do the same. In case it hasn’t come across, I write how I like to read. It doesn’t have to be extremely detailed. Just detailed enough so that I get the picture.
I like to think of all scenes, including middle ones, as a stage. They set the stage for the action and information that’s about to take place. So what does a stage need? It needs a background. What’s in the background? Is it inside, outside, on a lake, in a park, at an amusement park, etc. These are questions I ask myself in creating my middle scenes. What’s in the foreground? Who is my character or who are my characters? Are they arriving some place or are they already there? What are they noticing? How do they feel, what are they thinking? Again, all questions I use when creating scenes.
Action, reaction, feeling, and thoughts I think also help to create middle scenes. I say that because I can use my characters to reveal other aspects of the scene from their POV. Personally, I think the other part is the flow of information the character is following. The kind and amount of information they are following determines the scene they should be in. This is where I get into revealing information.
I call it information flow. What I mean by that is in what way is the information flowing that the next scene would be the most logical for the sequence so that they can learn more. This helps in deciding which scenes I should go to next. Then comes the questions about background, surroundings, feelings, etc.
I think part of the issue is exactly how much information to reveal. It’s a tricky thing because as the author I already know mostly everything my character doesn’t. But, if I follow my character’s information stream, then I find that it becomes easier to reveal tid-bit info rather than dishing out everything. I have to become this character.
Once information is revealed you can’t really reiterate it unless the character is learning what I call back-information (information about the information they’ve already received-and yes, I made this up). So if thus-and-so is revealed in scene A it can’t be revealed in scene B. Scene B has to have new information or give back-information. But you wouldn’t do this in Scene A. So you have to move onto scene C in either case. You want to have middle scenes that help to move the story without being fluff. This makes middle scenes tricky for some people.
So how do I strike the balance so that middle scenes help to move the story along?
First off, all middle scenes don’t have to reveal information. They can be action scenes, high tension scenes, low tension scenes, they can even be scenes where the character learns nothing or learns something that seems unimportant but actually has value later on. But isn’t that kind of scene fluff? Nope. The reason why I say that is because the character is hoping to find out something but then it turns up being a dead end. How many times have we done something hoping to find what you’re looking for only to find out it was a waste of time? So then why wouldn’t it happen to a character from time to time?
Secondly, I follow the information flow. Based on the present scene, where is the character going next? Or, what character POV is next (if I’m dealing with multiple characters). Here’s a generic example: You’re writing a novel where you have two main characters, the hero and bad guy. The hero is tracking down the bad guy while the bad guy is tracking down an apocalyptic death ray. So the information streams are different for them at this point. But eventually they’re going to cross paths and so will their information streams. Once that happens, they’ll both be chasing after the same thing with the hero’s ultimate goal of catching the bad guy and saving the day. This is a common, if not usual, case with multiple characters. So, as you’re writing there are switches between character POVs. That means different scenes for them and different information streams throughout the story. I can’t say this is always the case but it’s an example. Regardless of the character POV, follow the flow. What’s the next logical scene? Then it’s off to setting the stage and so on.
So a quick recap:
Set the Stage: What is the background/ backdrop? What is the foreground? Who are the characters in this scene? What are they feeling, thinking, observing? Usually writing the characters actions/reactions, emotions to situations will determine whether the scene is high/low tension, relaxed, warm, etc. If I place my character in a situation where they are running for their life because of information flow, then what they would experience will make the tension high. Once they’re in that scene I can amp up the danger. The greater the danger, the higher their reaction and tension.
Information Flow: This falls on what my character already knows, what they need to find out, what they were able to find out and how they were able to find out. The reason why this is important is because certain information will take a character to another place to find what they are looking for. It’s like following bread crumbs. One in scene A will lead to another in scene B will lead to another in scene C and so on. The only thing I have to do is determine which characters knows what information. After that it’s a matter of getting my main character to these informative characters.
Details: This goes without saying. Details adds richness and texture to every scene. It doesn’t need to be heavy with details (and sometimes I do get a little carried away- thanks goodness for editing). Still, I do aim for just enough to give the picture.
And that’s it for me. I haven’t really read much on creating middle scenes and the reason is because they are not as tricky for me as for some others. They get tricky for me too, just not as tricky. Usually when I find myself hung up on a middle scene it has something to do with the information stream or a detail that doesn’t work. Anyway, I thought I’d share what works for me.