They say middle acts are the hardest ones to write. It's also one of the most important parts of the story as it's where the majority of the story takes place. And if we're being honest, it's easy to be excited about your inciting incident, and equally so about your climax. But how do you keep the momentum going in the center? And while each novel comes with its own challenges, writing the second book of a trilogy is certainly a unique challenge in its own right. It is the quintessential middle act, from the first word to the last.
So how did I put together a middle act I would argue is possibly the best book in my Forbidden Scrolls Trilogy? Well, I dug into another story I loved in order to create the best middle act I possibly could. And this particular tale is arguably the best middle act in all of film:
The Empire Strikes Back.
Now, with all due respect to The Godfather Part II, The Empire Strikes Back is easily my favorite second act in cinema. It's also my favorite Star Wars film, and not just because it's the first movie I remember seeing in the theater as a kid. It's a story where the bad guys win, yet it still ends on a hopeful note despite all that's gone wrong along the way.
Hope is the underpinning of all things Star Wars. However, when Redemption & Ruin ends, it certainly doesn't feel like there's a lot of hope left on the horizon. Frost has a growing army of undead, multiple elemental scrolls in his possession, and Juliya is left devastated with a heart in turmoil. So it's fair to say that there's not a direct comparison between how Empire and Ruin play out.
But what I wanted to emulate from Empire was its tone. Specifically the idea of it being a race against time--Luke's race against the future he's foreseen in order to save his friends vs Juliya and her companions' race to find the scrolls to save their world. It's the race that gives the story its tension and keeps the audience engaged.
This concept of a race keeps the pace of the story relatively high despite Redemption & Ruin having the the highest word count of any of my books so far. It doesn't feel longer than the other books in the trilogy even though it actually is. I think that is one of the book's many strengths.
It's also a book that enacts a high emotional toll on the reader. There are some characters we've spent a good amount of time with up to this point whose journey ends in this book. Some of those endings come rather unexpectedly, though all of those deaths are done in service to the growth of other characters. It's not lost on this author that the necessity of those deaths doesn't make them any less shocking or bittersweet.
Originally, Redemptions & Ruin was just supposed to be the working title for the novel. It was my mission statement going into the writing process of what I wanted this book to be about. There are two redemption arcs being tackled within the story. And things end poorly for both characters involved. Redemption doesn't always come with a clean slate--sometimes you have to pay for your sins. Other times someone you care about has to pay the piper for you. Because of that, I found it fitting and kept Redemption & Ruin as the final title. It simply felt right.
Middle acts continue to be difficult to write. I can attest to this as I'm currently working on book two of The Miranda Project. I'm well aware of the fact I left Alex and company with a lot of work still to do at the end of the first book, and I'm hoping to put out another compelling second act for you all to devour. In the meantime, make sure you wish Redemption & Ruin a happy birthday today. And if you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for?