The Sticky Middle of a Story

If you followed last week’s post on fairy tales you’ll have some ideas for sending your hero off on a quest.

Now we come to the middle, where the story can often become bogged down and we have trouble working out what can happen next.

Fortunately, fairy tales can help us. Remember The Leaves that Hung but Never Grew?


So, Seren set off to seek her fortune. It’s a good reason for a quest.

Very soon, she came across a big, white house, where a rude old man shooed her away, telling her, “If you want something to do, go and find the leaves that hung but never grew.”

Seren had no idea what those leaves might be, so she carried on walking, until she met a dwarf. She asked if he knew anything about the leaves and he flew into a panic. “Those leaves are highly magical. But they’ve been stolen by a wicked witch who eats children like you.”

Seren continued on her way, feeling slightly less brave, and, as night fell, she came to a cottage where a sweet old lady welcomed her inside. Oddly, there was a large, wild boar chained in one corner. Even more oddly, after the old lady went to bed, the boar spoke. The old lady, he told her, was none other than the wicked witch, and she kept the magic leaves under her pillow.

That, in essence is the middle of the story. Obviously, there’s a lot more description and talking, but it’s easier to write all that once you know what’s actually happening.

This middle follows a common fairy tale pattern – the rule of three. Three brothers, three bears, three dwarfs… All right, there might have been seven dwarfs so that’s a bad example, but very often things do happen in sets of three.

With this in mind, plotting the middle of the quest suddenly looks a lot easier.

Your hero leaves her home and sets off bravely. She travels for some time and on the way she meets three characters who will help her in her quest. In Seren’s case, this looks like.

Character 1: Rude old man.

Helps by: telling her to find the leaves that hung but never grew.

Character 2: frightened dwarf.

Helps by: telling her the leaves were stolen by a wicked witch. (Quest becomes more dangerous.)

Character 3: magic, talking boar.

Helps by: telling her the leaves are under the witch’s pillow. (Quest becomes a LOT more dangerous.)

Now it’s your turn. Who does your hero meet on their travels, and what help do each of these characters offer? See if you can make the quest more dangerous each time, too.

I’ll come back next week to finish the story of the Leaves the Hung But Never Grew, and look at how to end your quest with a bang.


Check out my videos page for more story-telling ideas.