In The Middle: Making Sense Of The Muddle

The difficulty with many scripts and stories is the middle – the stretch that connects the beginning with the end.

Philip Larkin once said we like stories because of the muddle in the middle. The middle takes up more story time and space than the beginning and ending combined. And making that muddle work dramatically or comedically takes thought, planning and effort.

Once you’ve worked out where to begin and where you are trying to get to, you have to work out the most appropriately difficult way for your characters to get from one to the other – if it’s an action movie, you expect high-octane action, tension and jeopardy, if it’s a detective story, you expect the twists and turns of piecing together a coherent picture from the clues available, if it’s a love story, you expect a blossoming relationship being beset with obstacles. Your characters need to get lost in this muddle – otherwise, the journey forward will be too easy for them.

However, you the writer can’t get lost. You need to be in control of the muddle. You need to manipulate characters, events, actions and consequences. You need to make seeming incoherence and confusion still travel towards a climax and a conclusion. You need to make things difficult for the characters while keeping up the momentum of the story for the audience. You need to plan the muddle carefully.

Remember to surprise the audience. What do they need to see? What can you leave out? What might make them see the story, characters and events in a new light?

Remember to engage the audience. Are the characters developing and changing interestingly? Or remaining comically trapped in entertaining enough ways?

Don’t let the story flat-line. Remember the troughs and the peaks, the dead ends and the moments of clarity, the domino-effect of actions and consequences. Otherwise the story will sag. And so will your audience.

This information was harvested from The Writer’s Room as an educational tool. Credit:

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