Back in the ‘sixties when geezers over fifty drove DeSotos and watched Lawrence Welk and kids under twenty drove Volkswagen vans and painted peace signs on their faces and me and my sisters were the only ones on our block who wore bobby socks and saddle shoes, this girl moved two doors down with poker-straight hair and Bob Dylan records and no mother.
Well. Talk about your run-on sentence. But this first sentence sets the tone of the new book I'm working on. I want it to speak volumes to any reader's first glance. To draw them into the life of the narrator without knowing it.
First sentences of any novel should do that. They should pin you to the wall and hold you like super-glue. A first sentence is filled with magic and pierces your heart or peaks your interest to the point that before you know it, you're five chapters in.
But what about the middle of the book? Doesn't it deserve the same?
Lately, I'm finding I've spent as much time on the arc of the story and the chapters following it as I have on that first sentence. Some novels I've read lately have left me flat in the middle. As if the writer had a great idea for the beginning and end, then just filled in the middle the best they could. Sometimes with paragraphs and chapters that have very little to do with the actual story. As a result, my eyes skim over a third of the middle just to find out what happens at the end.
I think the middle of any story should be every bit as thrilling as the beginning. It sometimes answers questions, agreed. Maybe even ties up a few loose ends. But a skilled writer knows how to up the ante, raise the stakes, and turn the tide in the middle pages in ways the reader never sees coming. A good writer can introduce a new character (another rule breaker) or change point of view all while keeping the tone and voice throughout. Keep me enthralled through page 200 and I'll be your biggest fan.
The middle should set up the ending without giving it away. But it's often the most overlooked. It is also where readers find giant pauses. A place they can stuff in their bookmark and put down the book. The question is, are they anxious to get back to it or do they hesitate to pick it back up again?
The middle of the story is where the heart is. Writers, by all means, pay attention to it. Give it as much love as the rest.
Blessings to you and yours.