I thought I might share with you a piece of advice that really helped me with the book I am currently working on. In fact, it changed my whole outlook on the process and the structure of writing. It’s called writing from the middle, or the Mirror Moment. The Mirror Moment is the one scene, slap-bang in the middle of a story, where the main character looks in the mirror (metaphorically speaking) and understands that the odds are so stacked against him that he has virtually nowhere to go. He faces certain death, either literally, professionally or psychologically. What does this reveal? What are its hidden depths? The Mirror Moment is like the earth’s core. Once you know what the Mirror Moment is, you will then know the transformation and pre-story psychology of your main character.
What forces and major events helped to shape the main character? What was the protagonist like before his world was turned upside down? If you imagine the Mirror Moment as the top point of a triangle, then the pre-story psychology is the bottom left point of that triangle. This is where your character was developed. Did something happen to him at school? At home? Was there an early relationship that caused him heartache? Caused him to mistrust people? Was he badly let down? Bullied? Raised in a broken home? What shaped your protagonist and moulded him into the character he is today?
If the pre-story psychology is the bottom left point of the triangle, then the transformation is the bottom right point. If you know the Mirror Moment, then you know what the story is really all about. This will allow you to make your lead character fundamentally change or grow stronger as the story develops and reaches its conclusion. The Mirror Moment leads forwards to the Transformation and back to the Pre-story Psychology. They are all intrinsically linked to one another by the story. The key is to show that transformation.
That’s pretty much the plan I’ve followed for writing my first book in a new series involving reluctant private investigator, Ben Whittle. It’s the structure I feel most comfortable with, without doing too much in the way of plotting and planning. When Ben looked in the mirror, he realised that he’d never stood up for himself, that he’d always been weak and unwilling to confront his fears. This allowed me to then plot his Transformation and work out his Pre-story Psychology. Ben had been bullied to the point of stammering as a child. His father had tried to force him to do things that he didn’t want to do in order to ‘make a man of him’. So, in order for my story to work, Ben was going to need to go from that weak, ill-at-ease person formed by his childhood into someone that finally showed courage and stood up for what he believed in.
Does anyone else write from a different perspective? Maybe you know what the ending is and then work backwards. Whatever it is, I’d love to hear from you.
Last but not least, a big shout out to James Scott Bell for his superb book, Write Your Novel From The Middle – A New Approach For Plotters, Pantsers and everyone in-between. It helped me so much, and is well worth checking out.
Until next time.
All the best,