I’ve told you a pundit once said, “Every book has a beginning, an ending, and a muddle.”

Not so funny, really. Especially if you’re reading a published book, and you want a good experience from start to finish. Especially not so funny when you’re working on your own book and slogging through that problematic middle.

I’ve just discovered a more positive way to view middles, one that should inspire you and me to devote our utmost attention to the middles of our books.

The lead article in the July/August 2013 issue of The Atlantic is “The Cure for Obesity, How Science is Engineering Healthy Junk Food.” It’s an excellent, insightful, well-researched article, the gist of which is how Big Food, like the McDonald’s fast-food chain, are making great strides in improving the quality of their low-cost fare and how “whole foods” activists like Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman are wrongfully denigrating such efforts while, at the same time, pushing “healthy foods” that are often more fattening and filled with problem carbs than an Egg McMuffin.

The efforts of McDonald’s and other fast-food chains will especially redound to the benefit of the lower-income people who patronize them, a demographic that has significantly more obesity than other segments of the American population.

This is a good thing. Something to applaud.

In the middle of this very long and fascinating article, author David H. Freedman notes, “. . .companies are investigating ways to exploit a stream of insights that have been coming out of scholarly research about the neuroscience of eating.”

Candy companies, for example, are improving the nutrition of their candy bars by slipping healthier ingredients—lower fat, higher fiber stuff—in the middle.

Why does that work? The Oxford professor, Charles Spence, who studies such things notes that, “We tend to make up our minds about how something tastes from the first and last bites and don’t care as much what happens in between.”


If a book is a candy bar, does this observation let us writers off the hook when it comes to the integrity of book middles? That it’s okay to digress, wander off on too many subplots, or pontificate?

I suppose you could say so, if you think the reader won’t notice, but I want to cut it just the other way. Remember that candy companies are using the opportunity presented by the neuroscience of eating to make the middles (and therefore the whole candy bar) healthier.

If your beginning and ending are the buttery, exciting parts of the book, your book’s middle is your golden opportunity to make the case for your story. You want to make as strong a case as possible. So when the reader is ready to gobble down your denouement, he/she will not be disappointed. The ending, which hopefully is not too predictable, will seem inevitable.

Even a literary novel, with time inversions and subplots, differing POVs and flights of lovely prose, needs that sense of inevitability to succeed.

So there you have it, my friends. If a book is a candy bar, you as a writer want a beginning and ending that taste great. But you also need nourishing middle.

New! Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, and Smashwords (all other readers including Kobo, Sony, and Apple). Short fantasy and science fiction by Lisa Mason published in magazines and anthologies worldwide.

From the author of Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) on Nook, US Kindle, UK Kindle, and Smashwords, The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, on Nook, Kindle, Smashwords, and UK Kindle, Summer of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on Nook, Kindle, Smashwords, and UK Kindle, and The Gilded Age, A Time Travel (a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book) on Nook, Kindle, Smashwords, and UK Kindle.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, forthcoming projects and more, on my Facebook Author Page, on Amazon, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

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