Beginning, Muddle, and End
No matter what you write, be it flash fiction, short story, novella, or a novel; everyone of these formats has something in common. The Beginning, the Middle (Muddle), and the End. This is also called the story arc.
The Beginning of your story introduces the main characters, their goals, conflicts, and the tone. You introduce the setting of the story as well. The tone of your story depends on the genre you have picked: paranormal, romance, science fiction, thriller, mystery. Mood is another thing to keep in mind. Is it dark, light-hearted, humorous, satirical? Keep the mood and tone consistent throughout the story.
This is where you draw the reader into the story, grabbing their interest to continue reading. Writing the beginning is the easiest part. You know who your protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) are; you know the supporting cast, and you know what conflicts your protagonist will be facing and why. You should also know how the protagonist will resolve their main conflict, so you can keep things consistent as you write.
The Middle of your story is where complications occur and tensions rise for your main characters(s). As they face the road blocks set in place by the antagonist or situation, your character changes as they work to resolve the problems. Your protagonist needs to grow and change as they meet and overcome each challenge they face. Minor situations introduced in the beginning can be resolved in this section of the story. Even though the minor things are settled, you are still writing toward the climax of your book.
In this section of the story, you need to continue holding the reader’s attention, keep them going to the final section of the story. The muddle — sorry — middle of the story is much harder. It is so easy to get bogged down in details, introducing new minor conflicts for your protagonist as you go along. It’s also easy to lose your way in your story and you may find yourself unable to continue. This has happened to me many times and I never enjoy it. If you find yourself stuck, go back and read through what you’ve already written. Make notes of what has happened and what still needs to happen. A trick I used to get past this roadblock was to write part of the ending. This allowed my subconscious to work on the problem and I was still able to continue writing the story.
The End of your story is where you tie up all the loose ends, including the major conflict you introduced in the beginning. Don’t leave any plot points hanging when you reach the end. Don’t forget, the reader has spent their time reading the book and if you leave loose ends, they will not be happy and if you expect reviews, they won’t be favorable.
This section can make or break your book. Go back and make a list of the conflicts facing your protagonist in the beginning and the middle. Make sure you resolve everything along with the climactic conflict. Even if this first book is the beginning of a series, you need to tie up the loose ends, as well as the tie in to the next book.
When dealing with the three parts of your story, having some type of outline or notes to work from will help keep you on track, which leads to less revisions and major rewrites. It’s important that your story has a logical chronological order, so your readers don’t get confused by what happens when. You need to maintain consistency in time as you write the story.
From your opening sentence to your last line, you are making a deal with every potential reader. You agree to give them something enjoyable to read. Don’t let them down.
May the words ever flow!