Today is for M, and M is for the MIDDLE or in literary terms, en media res.
One of the rules pounded into the heads of newbie writers is the importance to start a story en media res, or quite literally, in the middle of things.
It's a fairly important rule because it grabs the reader and pulls him or her face-first into the meat of the story without first sifting through an entire chapter of set up.
The challenge is finding a way to maintain your main character's likability in the face of what he or she has found himself/herself in in the middle of.
Sometimes the best way to do that is to shift your point of view.
I wanted badly to tell the entire story of "The Long Road to Heaven" from Heather's point of view, including the prologue.
Both the prologue and the opening scene of chapter one drop the reader into the middle of the action. But by telling the prologue from Heather's point of view, I kept hearing from beta readers they weren't sure if they wanted to continue reading because the main character seemed so disconnected.
While the disconnection is exactly the feeling I wanted the reader to have -- because it was how Heather felt -- it's never a good to hear from beta readers that they wanted to put the story down because of that feeling.
I opted, instead, to tell it from Nick's point of view. At first, I thought that would feel strange to the reader since it was the only scene in the entire book not told in first person, but it ended up working out nicely.
I believe it made the story stronger because throwing a clear-headed innocent bystander into a mess as significant as Heather's amped up the tension. When Heather drops that last line of dialogue, the reader can easily connect with Nick's "Say wut?" moment.
It might not work in ever situation. But if you find yourself underwhelmed and/or stuck with a blank page, try looking at the story from another character's perspective.
It might do wonders.
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Kathryn Harris is an award-winning journalist and author of the contemporary novel THE LONG ROAD TO HEAVEN. All royalties she receives from April 2016's online sales of The Long Road to Heaven will be donated in memory of the late Caylee Hoehne to the United Way for use with the Court Appointed Special Advocates program for abused and neglected children. Please consider helping this worthwhile cause.