Change, cause & effect

Change across a story


The beginning of the story usually sets up some kind of contrast or conflict that develops into escalating confrontations through the middle of the story.

For example, in The Old, Dead Nuisance, Paul—who does not believe in ghosts—has some mystifying and terrifying encounters with not one but several ghosts:

He sat on the bed. The sleet still struck the window.

A face was looking at him. It hung in the air. It glared.

Paul yelped. The eyes were huge. The mouth was down-turned. It hung there like a mask.

He looked wildly around—hoping that he’d see something that might be reflecting.

There were other faces. They also hung in the air. Brothers. They hated him.

Paul thought he should run to the door. But he couldn’t. He didn’t know why, but he couldn’t move his legs or arms. Too terrified.

The Old, Dead NuisanceM.T. AndersonSource
What can we see in this snippet?
Middles are made up of lots of moments like this

Elena was lying on the sofa watching TV on her phone. A text popped up from Nidhi: a link to a course description with 'you'd love this'.

Elena rolled her eyes. She was tired of people sending her suggestions. She swiped her thumb to delete the link but somehow launched it instead.

Before she could tap back, a banner image caught her eye. At first, she thought it was a painting of blue and gold. But on closer inspection she saw it was an underwater photo of plastic garbage suspended in the ocean. But it was so beautiful, it looked like a piece of modern art.

Elena, entranced, scrolled down to find out more.

That afternoon they had training.

The new kid, Filsan, blitzed the cone drills—even coach's feared cyclone drill. Sometimes his feet moved so fast, it was like he was one of those YouTube chefs chopping an onion. Other times he glided across the field like a swan coming to land in a lake.

Tom felt something he wasn't used to feeling: jealousy.

When they played a game, Filsan scored three goals and stole the ball from Tom every time he tried.

Tom glared.

At the end of training, everyone wanted to talk to Filsan, except Tom, who wondered bitterly about the odds of Filsan having a bone-breaking accident in the next few weeks.

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