July 8th, 2015

Panties or Protein Powder? How to Tighten a Saggy Middle

I wish I had a fix to give you that svelte summer look, but this blog has nothing to do with your body.

 The Backstory:

The PantiesLast week I was talking with a friend who’s housesitting. Her vacationing friend called the first night and said, “You have to overnight my underwear tomorrow morning.”

My friend suggested just shopping for underwear, rather than pay to send lingerie to Maui. Her friend had checked out that option, but could not find a store that carried her brand of underwear. She wanted her own panties enough to pay $85 to have them arrive in two days.

Last year I flew to Laura Drake’s for some quality time before we drove to San Antonio for the RWA conference. When unpacking at Laura’s, I found I’d forgotten my newly-purchased fancy dress slacks. After Laura took the whip out of my hand (I’m very good at beating myself up) she took me shopping. I settled for reasonable substitutes.

A month later, on the way to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. I had a two-day layover with the friend I was going to travel with. We’d done this “layover” thing on other international trips to cross-pack and pick up last minute items, and it works well for us. The first morning I discovered I’d forgotten my morning protein powder. You can only buy this powder online.

She took me to Whole Foods, but I couldn’t find anything I’d used before. I called a friend at home and asked her to go to my house and overnight the bag I’d left on the counter.

An hour later I received a call from my friend. “Just buy another kind. It’s going to be almost two hundred dollars to send this.”

The Protein PowderI didn’t care. I wasn’t going to chance a nasty-tasting breakfast, or worse, one that made me sick in the high Andes or on a little boat. I was willing to pay whatever it took for what I needed.

In your story, how far will your characters go to get what they need? 

By the middle of your WIP, you’ve established goals, motivation and conflict for your characters, but the brilliant plot may be stretched thin and your reader may have forgotten those goals and the motivation if you haven’t steadily ramped up the stakes. How do you fix those lackluster scenes?

Is there something that your hero needs before he can continue his quest? It could be something physical, like a new barbecue, or something visceral, like a chance to confront someone. What is he willing to pay, either in money, sweat or emotion, like pride? What a perfect place for conflict and decision-making to push your story forward or to get to the turning-point!

Maybe your heroine wants something badly enough to act in a way that takes your story in a whole new direction. That your reader didn’t see coming. Fantastic! In my last book, the heroine wanted to win an athletic competition. She wanted to win enough to accept the help of a person whom she looked down on, didn’t respect, and didn’t trust. That decision took the book in a whole different direction. Changed her life, too.

Can you introduce something into your story, even if it’s a just need for a latte, that becomes so important to your character that she is willing to do almost anything, spend much more than she rationally should, to get it?

The panties, or protein powder, you add don’t have to change your story, particularly if you’re just looking to fix that saggy middle. You could use a“quest” for satisfaction to inject a little humor into your story. You could even create conflict between characters. I’m sure you’ve been with a friend or a loved one who did not recognize your need for something and words became swords. Maybe now that episode is a source of laughter and funny stories, but at the time, you were fully engaged in the battle.

Finally, showing your character’s willingness to “go the distance” with something that others may consider inconsequential will make the actions of that character more believable when she fights for what she must have at the end of the book.

Do you have a story about something you had to have that you’re willing to share? Do you laugh about it now, or is it still a source of irritation (and teasing)? Can you think of a place in your WIP that could use panties or protein powder?  


Fae RowenFae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak.   Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes  that she can live anywhere but the present.  As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.

Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong.  She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.

A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now shares her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told.  Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow. Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard.

When she’s not hanging out at Writers in the Storm, you can visit Fae at http://faerowen.com  or www.facebook.com/fae.rowen.


31 comments to Panties or Protein Powder? How to Tighten a Saggy Middle

  • Great way to drive this point home! Thanks for the morning giggle!

  • I’m very careful packing – because I have long legs, I have to wear ‘tall’ pants, and you can’t buy those hardly anywhere. Plus, I’m anally organized, so…

    My sags are 33% in. I have no idea why, but that’s just the way it is. Saving this for my next sag, Fae – thank you!

  • Carolyn Toms-Neary

    Great article, Fae. Thank you so very much!

  • This is always such a great topic! Middle-of-the-book (or body) sag is a recurring issue for many of us. 🙂 Hilarious examples…

  • Nina

    Thank you for the great advice and putting the sag into perspective (with humor). I’m in the process of revision and plan to put your advice into practice.

    • Fae Rowen

      Thanks, Nina. I’m sure you can inject your own “must haves” into your story. Good luck with those revisions!

  • Fae, your blog post wins the prize for the best title ever! Very useful info here as well–about packing AND writing.

  • Fae Rowen

    Thanks, Holly. Just shows what can be done under pressure. I was on a Pilates reformer (whichI only do twice a year!) when I came up with the idea and title for this blog! Thanks to Darcia Dexter for laughing with me.

  • Bookmarking for when I get to that saggy middle in my WIP. Now if you have any tips for the saggy abs I’m all ears!

    • Fae Rowen

      My saggy abs are a lot less saggy, thanks to my trainer, Angel. Oh, and I have to thank Angel for the first photo. Her panties, not mine. (I wish…)

  • Hugs to Fae!

    Fabulous post! Loved your points, your humor, and your style!

    I agree with Holly. A winning title!

  • Creatively presented, Fae! It gets interesting when the bag containing protein powder–or the panties–split open unexpectedly at inopportune times…

  • Fae Rowen

    Oh, so true. What a grand idea! Thanks for sharing it.

  • Once I was visiting a friend in the middle-of-nowhere, New Mexico, and I desperately “needed” a latte. There wasn’t a single coffeehouse in the town she lived in, so I hopped in the car and drove to the nearest Starbucks–90 miles away in Roswell. On the plus side, I got to tour a UFO museum and visit a really quirky little town, so it was a win. Definitely book-worthy material–the UFO museum alone was highly entertaining. Great advice here, Fae. Thanks for the tips!

    • Fae Rowen

      Well, as a science fiction writer, Denise, I think your need was well-fulfilled. Thanks for sharing how far–ninety miles!–you were willing to go to take care of a need.

  • Sorry for chiming in late. My writing schedule has changed for a while and I don’t get to do any of this good stuff until mid-evening. I love your posts. I think we should all make copies and keep them in a notebook. Thanks, Fae.

    And have a blast in New York 🙂 She is truly … one hell-of-a town !!!

  • Fae Rowen

    I’m honored by your support, Ramblings. I owe you a notebook! And yes, Laura and I have a countdown going for our trip. I’m lucky to have a couple of friends there who can’t want to share The Big Apple with us.

  • You know you had me at “panties,” right? I’ve gone this far several times on trips. Where a box of wine, a Kindle, or whatever had to be shipped to wherever. Some things, like memories and comfort, are simply priceless.

  • Funny, Fae and a great analogy of what we need to be doing with our characters. I know this will help me with an area I sometimes forget to work on–upping the ante. My forgetting story goes back to before my husband and I were married. Didn’t even live in the same city. I went there for a job interview, but left the special dress hanging behind my closet door at home. He took me shopping at Sears where I found a darling light blue dress that worked perfectly. You know I don’t remember whether I got the job. I got a job in that town, but don’t remember if this was when I intereviewed for it. The best part of this story is he still married me, and we’re going strong at 44 years. Thanks for bringing back what is now a funny memory, but then was horrific!

  • Fae Rowen

    I love your story, Marsha. Thanks so much for sharing it. And congratulations! There is nothing as good as true love.

  • […] you are one who has difficulty overcoming the “saggy middle” in your writing, Fae Rowen offers an interesting option to help it out. Give your character a mini-quest: have her go to unreasonable measures to find something that […]

  • Fae Rowen

    Thanks for the blog love!

  • […] They help with saggy middles. (You can read Fae’s blog about fixing a saggy middle here.) […]