the mirror moment for plotters and pantsers

The Mirror Moment: A Method for Both Plotters and Pantsers

I want to thank Katie for giving me some space here to talk about my new book, Write Your Novel From the Middle. Rather than have her come up with interview questions, I took that burden upon myself. The only problem was, when I questioned myself, I tended to go on and on. I’ve thus mercifully cut this interview to the bone.

I sat down with myself on a sunny afternoon in Los Angeles. I found myself to be a bit distracted that day, but dogged former lawyer that I am, I persevered.

Write From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters and PantsersMe: So what prompted Write Your Novel From the Middle?

JSB: It was a discovery I made a couple of years ago, about something I call the “mirror moment.” I’ve written this book to explain not only what that moment is, but how to use it to write better novels. And screenplays, for that matter.

Me: Can you be a little more specific about this “mirror moment”?

JSB: Yes, I can.

Me: Well?

JSB: Ah, okay. There are quite a few writing teachers who talk about the midpoint, a scene in the structural middle of the novel that does an extra something. Only I was never clear on what that thing was, because there’s conflicting advice on it, and some of it’s vague. So I set about to see if I was missing anything. I took a few of my favorite movies and went to the exact middle of the films. Then I went to some of my favorite novels and did the same. What I found excited the heck out of me.

Me: Did you ever get the heck back in?

JSB: Not even close. What I found, to my utter delight and excitement, was that the true midpoint is not a scene at all, but a moment within the scene. And not only that, this moment revealed the very heart of the story.

Me: How so?

JSB: The character is forced to look at himself. As if in a mirror, only it’s a reflection of who he is at that moment in time. Who am I? What have I become? What do I have to do to regain my humanity? Sometimes, it’s the character looking at the odds. How can I possibly win? It looks like I’m going to die—physically or spiritually. Now what am I supposed to do?

Me: Can you give us an example?

JSB: I’ll give you two. In the middle of Gone With the Wind, Scarlett looks at herself and wonders what will become of her and Tara. What must she do to save her way of life? She makes the decision right there that she will do whatever it takes. She becomes a doer, not a victim. In the middle of The Hunger Games, Katniss accepts that she’s going die. She states it plainly, right in the middle of the book. She prepares herself for death, but then gets a chance to fight on.

Me: Interesting. Any other examples?

JSB: Try Dying.

Me: Nice self-promotion.

JSB: Honestly, I was surprised to find it, because I had not yet formulated the “mirror moment” idea when I wrote the book.

Me: So how did it get there?

JSB: All I can say is it must have been instinct. Which is probably how Margaret Mitchell and Suzanne Collins did it, too. What Write Your Novel From the Middle is doing is popping open the hood and showing writers how they can be intentional about it.

Me: Should a writer know what this moment is before beginning to write?

JSB: It helps enormously, because knowing this moment illuminates the entire book you’re trying to write. It’s the deep tissue of the story, which many writers don’t discover until much later, sometimes after the book is published.

Me: You make the claim that this method of yours will bring peace to a longstanding feud—that between plotters and pantsers. So back that up, please.

JSB: Sure. The Write From the Middle Method is powerful because it can be used at any point in the writing process. If you’re a pantser, and you want to write without a plan, you can wait awhile before brainstorming the mirror moment. But then, once you do know it, your pantsing will have a focus that you’ll be delighted with.

A pantser could also start with a mirror moment “out of the blue,” and then write a whole novel around it.

Plotters will love the mirror moment because they usually have a good structure set up, but don’t always know the deep, interior story for their main character. The mirror moment gives it to them. Planning scenes gets much easier as a result.

Me: Have you found this to be true in your own writing?

JSB: Absolutely. Ever since I discovered the mirror moment it has become an absolute essential for me. For example, when I’m just starting to plan a story, when I’ve given thought to my LOCK elements, I—

Me: What is LOCK again?

JSB: Why are you asking me? We came up with it.

Me: For the benefit of the readers.

JSB: Ah. LOCK stands for Lead, Objective, Confrontation and Knockout. That became the basis of my book, Plot & Structure.

Me: Nice self-promotion again.

JSB: You asked the question!

Me: Okay, go on with what you were saying.

JSB: I like to lay out my LOCK elements first. That’s when I know I at least have a plot. But then I go right to that mirror moment. I brainstorm it. I come up with several possibilities, and invariably one of them just seems right. It illuminates the entire narrative. That’s when I’m ready to write.

Me: Anything else about this book we should know?

JSB: Just that I’ve included a section with extra tips on writing the novel. Helping fellow writers is one of the things I enjoy most.

Me: Well, that about does ‘er. Wraps ‘er all up.

JSB: You’re quoting The Big Lebowski, of course.

Me: Of course. Someday I want to have Sam Elliott’s voice.

JSB: Good luck with that.

Me: And good luck with the new book.

JSB: Thanks. It’s been a pleasure.

Me: We should do this more often!

JSB: I, um, have to go now.

Tell me your opinion: Can you identify a moment of reflection in the middle of your story?

the mirror moment a method for both plotters and pantsers

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About James Scott Bell | @jamesscottbell

James Scott Bell and his doppelganger live and write in Los Angeles. His website is www.jamesscottbell.com.

Comments

  1. Laurence says

    After I read your book (well, technically still reading it–most of the way through), I kept asking myself how this concept could/would work for a protagonist in a series of books (or TV episodes perhaps, film trilogy); does he or she continue growing and changing with each novel/episode?

  2. Interesting method. I definitely will try to apply this to my next writing project.

    I found this interesting due to fact that most writing tips I read is about ‘how to open your story magnificently and how to end it in good way’. Rarely they talk about a method to spice up the middle part of the novel (which I often find hard to write, rather than the beginning or the end of the story).

    May I post this link to my fantasy writers group? I believe they will be delighted to learn new technique like this 😀

  3. Thanks for such a nice post and awesome books 🙂
    The interview was funny and interesting, (and I do it with myself quite often)
    One funny thing about writing is, most people, especially in history, used to knew it and get it right with instinct. And nowadays, we get to know it and realize at way at the beginning. Thanks to those writers who take their time and research and discover it for us. And in a bam moment, we get all of it from a blog post and books like these.
    People says digital age has dragged us out of many small happiness’ of life, I would say it has make it only more beautiful.
    Thanks again 😀
    P.S It feels cool to be able to address a post to James Scott Bell 😉

  4. Found this post via a comment in Facebook in the Realm Makers group. Someone had mentioned Bell’s LOCK method and when I searched for info this post was in the search results list. Will have to read in more detail later.

Trackbacks

  1. […] James Scott Bell’s Writing From the Middle […]

  2. […] Amazon “look inside” feature), but when I saw his interview with himself here: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2014/03/plotters-and-pantsers.html I knew I had to check it […]

  3. […] Scott Bell suggests you try writing your book from the middle. This approach is helpful for both plotters and pantsers and a really original idea that might be […]

  4. […] a mirror-moment in every game, preferably in the middle.   The goal here is to have a player reflect upon the […]

  5. […] **Mirror moment. JSB describes this in an interview with KM Weiland as a point in the story when “The character is forced to look at himself. As if in a mirror, only it’s a reflection of who he is at that moment in time. Who am I? What have I become? What do I have to do to regain my humanity? Sometimes, it’s the character looking at the odds. How can I possibly win? It looks like I’m going to die—physically or spiritually. Now what am I supposed to do?” Interview here. […]

  6. namevah says:

    […] James Bell Scott, The Mirror Moment: A Method for Both Plotters and Pantsers […]

  7. […] more on the subject: “Can you structure if you’re a Pantser?” by K.M. Weiland “The Mirror Moment: A Method for both Plotter and Pantsers” by James Scott Bell “The Pros and Cons of Plotters and Pantsers” by The Magic […]

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