When taking writing classes, teachers regularly warn writers to avoid the “sagging middle”. Writers will start their books with energy that begins to peter out once they hit the middle. I think writers took this to heart because now what I’m finding in books I’m going to call the “saggy drawers”, the loss of energy between the 60-80% marks in books. I have a detritus of books on my Kindle in which I gave up reading somewhere in that section.
It isn’t just a loss of energy, though. It’s about that region of the book that I realize the author is never going to fully develop his characters — that any profound ideas or deeper themes is never going to happen because the author is dead set on nothing but action scene after scene. This doesn’t mean that there is a trade-off of good rising action because rising action means upping the stakes, which naturally means deepening characterization. Suspense is only suspenseful if the events in the story matter to the characters. And then they have to matter for a reason, something universal to the human condition.
I’ve managed to work my way through books with saggy drawers, and sometimes they redeem themselves with a great ending. But I’m probably still not going to buy more books by the author because reading shouldn’t be a chore. There has to be some payoff for my soul or, less esoterically, my mind. One modern sci-fi author delivered that payoff with information. Everytime I wanted to give up on his books, he would deliver an info drop*, explaining the mechanics of future tech. Occasionally, an author just has a great writing style that carries me along, but the art of vocabulary and rhythm is increasingly rare these days. Why worry about a flavorful vocabulary when verbs like “get” (shudder) can replace a plethora of other words?
Yeah, I get it. I sound like a whiner, right? But I was searching through my Kindle for books I hadn’t finished, and I discovered this trail of saggy drawers I had no desire to open again. That…was a really odd way of phrasing it. I should shut up now.
*I carefully avoided the word “dump” here. You’re welcome.