Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blah, blah, blah, something in the middle ...

By Lacey Gunter

I had this English class in junior high the students would joke that all you had to do was make really great opening and closing paragraphs and you would get a good grade, no matter what was written in the middle.  I thought it was funny and believed it in some part. Then one day a friend decided to put it to the test. He wrote a really nice opening and closing paragraph. Most of the middle was probably okay too. But mixed in there was a paragraph that was total garbage. I remember seeing it.  It actually had the phrase "Blah, blah, blah" in there, mixed with a bunch of other stuff like "I know you're not actually reading this."  I was pretty skeptical he was going to pull it off.  But, sure enough, his score came back an 'A' on the paper.

 To be fair to the teacher, I wouldn't want to be reading and grading junior high student's essays either. But it is a perfect example of how are general culture obtains and assesses information in this era of short attention spans and information overload. It could be argued that we are a generation of headline readers. So, naturally, a lot of emphasis gets put on those first few paragraphs and that really amazing ending.

Okay, now is the part where I start blabbing on, so if you need to just skip to the end...... ; )

Surely there is some merit to a great opening. It is your pass to get in the party. But you aren't going to be staying long at the party if you can't produce a great middle. Are we putting too much focus on the wrong thing?  Is part of the reason we got to this point because we've neglected to stress the importance of a compelling middle?

What gets a reader to actually read a book? Sure a great opening can get the reader to start the book, but it is what's in the middle that keeps the reader actually reading. And it's what's in the middle that gets the reader dreaming, sharing and discussing.

So take the time to make a really great opening and a blow you away ending. But, when it's all said and done, maybe your biggest task it to figure out how to KEEP the reader's attention. That's got to be somewhere in the middle.

1 comment:

  1. This is really important to remember. One of the things an editor recommended at a writing workshop I attended was to have your critique partner (or whoever is reading your work as you’re working on it) use a highlighter (real or on the computer program) and mark on the page whenever they found their mind wandering. That gives you, the writer, a chance to see the spots where you might be losing your reader. So your middle doesn’t get all squishy. ;-)



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