a_r_williams (a_r_williams) wrote,

Your Middle Determines the Length of Your Tale & Even If You Don't Have a Story

Middles make up the core part of any book or story. It accounts for nearly half of the book, so naturally, how big or small your middle is, is going to determine whether you're writing flash, a short story, a novel, or something that doesn't have enough elements to be considered a story.

Knowing the middle conflict of your story will tell you a lot about what you're writing.


#The Main Conflict

Novels due to their size will have the most problems for the protagonist to overcome. The main conflict should be large enough that it creates the need for multiple goals and difficult enough that is not easily resolved.

If you envision the main conflict as a tree, then the main story problem will be the trunk and everything else will branch off of it. The lower branches will consist of easy to solve problems and the higher ones will be the more complicated tasks. If the protagonist were to climb this tree, each branch ( or problem ) will help them get higher up the tree. Once they reach the top, they will have solved all of their problems.

If you find you run out of ideas for where to take your novel, the main problem is the spot to look for how to increase the conflicts your character faces. If you don't think you have enough material to create a compelling book, you may want to check to see if the main conflict is the reason.


Because of their size, novels can afford to have a large cast of characters. These characters can also bring their own problems into the story, which may or may not belong to the main conflict. The sub-plot can be used in many ways. They often add more interest, plot twists, or suspense to the story. Although the novel can be written without them, they usually add something to the tale.

One method of doing subplots is to show a problem or solution that is similar to the main problem. Since a different character, with different strengths and weaknesses is dealing with it, they can achieve different results. Using this method will highlight the main plot and add to its meaning, while also giving the reader a better glimpse into each of the characters. To continue the tree analogy, this type of subplot can very easily be part of the same tree as the main conflict, maybe even be a branch unto itself.

The other type of sub plot is one that is not connected to the main plot. If it were a tree, it would stand apart, but never reach the full height and width of the main plot. It will likely have areas that intersect with the main story, but it can just as easily make no connection at all.


Short stories cannot have conflicts that require a lengthy resolution. Usually, the protagonist will have a few failures before they overcome the main conflict. Also, because of its size, a subplot may be very difficult to pull off. If there is a subplot, it may need to parallel the main plot in order to best utilize the limited space.

When the conflict seems especially large, the story can make use of transitions to aid in the movement of time.


Flash can best be thought of as what would be a scene in larger works. The conflicts in it are focused on one very specific problem. Due to its size there is little room for anything outside of the main conflict and often flash has a very limited time frame in which the character(s) act.


If you write a story that doesn't have any conflict the protagonist must overcome, chances are you have something that is not a story. It may be the start of a scene, a vignette, an idea, or notes for what the real story will turn out to be. To turn this into a story, find conflict that can be used as the inciting incident and then add to the problems the protagonist will have to face.


Is the main conflict large enough to support the size of the story being told? Can it generate enough problems?

Are the conflicts it generates difficult to overcome? Are they interesting? Do they demand a lot of steps in order to be overcome Or do they need fewer steps?

If one problem is solved are new ones created? Are these new problems essential to the story? Do these new problems deepen the story?

What do you want to accomplish with the sub plot? Is it part of the main conflict or is it separated?

What does the subplot add? Does it reveal something new about characters, setting, or theme?

What if the subplot is bigger than the main conflict? Does the subplot detract from the main conflict? Are you more interested in the subplot or the main conflict?

If it isn't a story, what conflicts does it suggest? What format do the conflicts fit best: novel, novella, novelette, short, or flash?
Tags: writing, writing tips

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