Tips From a Young Writer: The Mid-Goal

Originally Posted On Knitted By God's Plan


Mid-goal? I hear some of you ask. What's that?

Well, it's a plotting device that I noticed somewhere in the writing of The Ankulen and I have used in almost every one of my books. And I searched books of writing advice, but the closest thing I've found anyone else talk about is the pre-climax (or something to that tune) which, though it's similar, has it's differences. A pre-climax is usually an echo of the official climax, the big difference being the fact that the hero fails.

The mid-goal is broader than that. And it's something that I have employed in all three of my published books, and in Infiltration. I've seen it in other books, too, so I know it's not just me. So what is it? Well, in the simplest terms possible, it's a pivotal event or a second goal for your characters to achieve that will completely shift the focus of the novel and on which the ultimate goal and climax of your book relies. Usually, it's something of a climax in it's own right, but it doesn't have to be that intense. Sometimes it's the goal advertised on the back of the book! In Sew, it's when Robert discovers Rosamond's true identity. In Take, it's when they arrive at the castle. In The Ankulen, it's when Jen gets her memories back.

What about in other books? Well, in The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, it's when Milo and his gang receive permission from the Mathemagician to rescue Rhyme and Reason. In Heartless by Anne Elizabeth Stengl, it's when the Dragon shows up. In The Fellowship of the Rings, it's when Frodo and the ring arrive at Rivendell.

A mid-goal can be either a positive event or a negative event, it can be subtle or overwhelming, but any way you slice it, it must shift the focus of the novel (even if its only slightly, as is the case of Sew) and it must present your characters with a choice. Do they continue with their quest? Or do they go home now? Does your hero continue to pursue the girl? Or do they part ways? Also, something must be achieved, whether by the hero, the villain, or the author, it doesn't matter, but some goal must be reached, a journey finished, or a secret discovered.

Does a book have to have a mid-goal? No. Many books (especially shorter books) keep the same theme, feel, and goal straight through. Can it have more than one mid-goal? Yes. Many books (especially longer books) have two or even three shifts in focus and goal.

So tell me about the mid-goals you have in your books. How about in books you've read?

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