Structuring a Novel -7 steps on how to Structure a Novel

This is one of the most outstanding problem writer’s faces only seconding writer’s block. At first, comes the immerse rush of ideas in plentiful and with enthusiasm you intend to make hay while the sun shines, but here comes the standstill, how am I to arrange it, I mean, I know the “A” and the “Z” and an extensive portion of everything that comes in between but how do I form a “BCDE….”

See this as a journey to Iraq. You are aware that Iraq is in the orients of Asia but the road to that place in particular still leaves you puzzled what then do you do to appropriate such. It’s simple, you get yourself a map, the liberal equivalent of that literary-wise is a plot. The usefulness of a plot to a writer can never be overstressed. It’s that silver lining that eventually leads to the light at the end of the tunnel.

However, there is a sheer case of writers being overwhelmed by the idea of a plot, they fear the erecting of another definite structure as opposed to their already started write-up would lead to the impediment of creative gust. But that can only be a cause of worry when there is an attempt at working it all out in one sitting, especially for a beginner. it’s best to approach from the fundamentals.

Take a sheet of paper and jot down from your imagination the supposed genre, and a quick summary of your intended content e.g.

  • Genre: Paranormal

“it’s a reality piercing paranormal vignette where Thomas Kurt an Interpol, and an award-winning journalist, Sarah-Lynn Maya journeys to Palestine to investigate the sudden disappearance of residence there, they soon discover that the misplacement of individuals isn’t as a cause-effect of dysnormy, civilian opposition to sharia rule, or blatant malignancy by dictatorship but rather as a result of a yet to be ascertained boomerang bounce back of American experimentation on Palestinian citizens, Thomas Kurt goes missing and Sarah-Lynn later finds out that he has been used for the development of bioweapons same with every other misplaced individual, she ends up losing her memory and the secret goes to hell” now proceed further by creating notes about:

Theme: is there a point you’d want the story to communicate to readers? Mine is Humanities callousness

Character: who is your main character? Your protagonist? Mine is Sarah-Lynn.

Setting: which environment, which world is your story set in and how does your character operate in that environment? Mine is on planet earth, Palestine to be specific.

Objective: what will your character be struggling to achieve in the entire course of the novel? Mine wants to uncover the sudden eerie disappearance of Palestinians and why

Provoking event: what is the inciting significant occurrence that provokes your characters to attain what they want? Mine is the sudden disappearance of Palestinians

Development of Plot: what basic happenings need to occur? Which new characters would be introduced and for what reason and how? Which basic thing would you need to apply to propel the story further?

Change: what is the basic alteration that has to happen?

Climax: What is the worst edge-cutting occurrence that would take place in your novel, the incident that’ll breed a lot of emotions? Mine is when Thomas Kurt, who everyone would think is the central character, goes missing.

Resolution: the conclusion, what significant thing would happen that would mark the end of the plot? Mine is the discovery of Thomas Kurt’s whereabouts and what his body has been used for.

As you pen down your own concepts under those subheadings while using my outline as a pointer you’d discover that there are a lot of stones you’ve left unturned, you’d discover that there is a bountiful amount of gaps still begging to be filled with knowledge concerning the plot, you’d discover that you don’t know the favourite colour of your main character, or her boyfriend’s name, if she’s straight or gay, why she loves the smell of mud and iodine or eats chicken curry every Saturday, but that’s good it’s rather you get puzzled by that at the beginning stage than address it minds way in most occasions such leads to writers’ block and many hardly overcome it.

Selecting a narrative format

Looking into this and adhering to what it gives out would be of benefit to the structure of your novel, have you ever wondered why Shirley Jackson wrote. The Haunted House with the three acts Structure or why Nuzo Onoh did her The sleepless with the ‘W’ plot? Of course not, you haven’t put that into pondering typically because you don’t know what they are.

1.0 The Three-Act structure

The three-Act- structure is a standard pattern for constructing screenplays, novels etc. as the name implies it is plotted on 3 basic defining events.

Act 1- the lead character(s) is introduced, Amma Darko’s Faceless portrays much of this, in the beginning of the novel Fufu and Kabria are introduced functioning in their respective area of livelihood, contributing immensely to minor themes although not crossing paths immediately they each get a share of the beginning chapters as the author inter-switch concurrently the readers’ area of concentration to grace the lives of both parties.

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The inciting incident is unveiled coupled with some internal opposition, again, Amma Darko’s book lets us know about the phenomenon of street children, which later stimulates Kabria who functions in an NGO that oversees such affairs to react to Fufu’s plight. Fate brings both parties to the same page as Fufu tries to rob Kabria and elope with the money in order to evade further molestation and possible death, with this, we stumble into the next act.

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Act 2- the lead character takes the center stage as always and reacts to the provoking incident, like aforementioned in Amma’s faceless, kabria takes up the wooden cross and ventures deep into the rabbit hole she goes in search for Fufu’s parents so as to understand the reason why Fufu is waltzing the lonely streets of Accra dishevelled. This act, in particular, takes up all the narrations and houses the beginning climax, and should provoke more mind-boggling thoughts that would dictate the unfolding future and easily wind up towards the next act, like Fufu wants to run away so she attempts to rob kabria why does she want to run away?

Because of the constant abuse she has been receiving and at the same time warding off from a round despicable guy, Poison who Amma tells us is the notorious Gang lord and Godfather of the street of Accra. This further draws to questioning about the well-being of Kabria, now that she is in the picture how would she cope with Poison that is deadly and notorious, Who lives and who dies?

Act 3- conflicts surfaces, they become a twist(if necessary) and after all the crisis there is a resolution, once more bringing Amma’s book to picture, poison all of a sudden submits to Kabria and tells her what she needs to know about the streets and the kids living there. You can layer your own plot in this structure so as to understand where the “BCDE…” goes.

    1. The 7-point story Structure

This begins with a hook; a captivating introduction to the story’s absorbing world

plot 1: an exciting episode that draws the protagonist into adventure, just like Stephen kings it where pennywise murders George Denbrough, Bill’s brother and that prods Bill to search for pennywise the dancing clown.

Pinch point 1: the unveiling of the antagonist and initiation of major conflict, pennywise the clown in the storm drain is introduced by talking with George Denbrough.

Midpoint: a turning point in the story where the protagonist goes from reaction to action,-Bill acting on his brother’s death summons his merry band of losers and braces to combat Pennywise

Pinch point 2: the major conflict takes a turn for the worse, and all appears lost for the protagonist

Plot turn 2: the possible introduction of deus ex machine, a turnaround situation where the hero or protagonist is suddenly helped by a series of events emanating from luck and resolves a potent way to take down the antagonist.

Resolution: the major conflict is resolved and all antagonistic elements are taken care of.

This may by chance, may appear similar to the three-act structure simply because they both contain elements required to structure a plot with increased stakes resulting in a resolution. But the little thing is that this is more famous among writers because its manner of approach can turn a captivating idea into a chockfull story. Structuring a story with this kind of method only requires a character and a few shards of worlds in mind before you begin to take for Instance Jumanji a children picture book written, by Chris Van Allsburg in 1981, about a board game that brings the literal jungle to the present point of the play. According to Chris he got the idea from playing monopoly.

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Now I’d show you how the seven-point structure can be applied to the story, even though I’m not completely certain if Chris applied it.

Step 1: first decide on a resolution; the board game sounds evil, while would it distort reality by bringing forth jungle creatures and insects the likes of giant spiders and live vines to harden the lives of players? And since it is a children’s book we wouldn’t want to hurt tender minds with gory scenes and heart-quaking incidents so for that a perfect end would have to be the safe conclusion of the board game without anyone being hurt, because that in essence would be what everyone wants to see.

Steps 2: develop a hook that contrasts with the ending

Upon developing a resolution circle back to the beginning and start with a hook, some sort of arc that’d make readers what to read on, something that would heighten their inquisitiveness something like juxtaposing the start with the end. So Jumanji is a board, and as scary as it will be presented the expectation would be that a hard-core diehard board gamer would be brought to challenge the difficulty of the game and win, right? It’s typical and not very attention-provoking, it’s much rather better if you start with an autistic kid being at the centre of it all or just a really awful gamer, you know, using the typical from nothing to something or rags to riches notion.

Step 3: break the story into two with the midpoint

Just to embolden the story complexities to choose a midpoint. At this juncture, a midpoint is an event that breaks the story into two part

  • The main character reacts to the environment around him.
  • The main character proactively works toward his goal.

Commonly, this turning point always requires the protagonist to set a new goal for him/herself this is actively considered as a false victory in which the protagonist acquires his intent but circumstances require they chase at something else

Following the story of Hercules the son of Zeus the adopted cinematic version after he completed the 12 labours of Eurystheus he becomes a mercenary and is hired by the Cotys king of Thrace to help train Thracians to combat Rhesus and his supposed force of darkness upon aiding the king to conquer Rhesus and being paid bountifully in weights of gold, because that’s what it was really about, before leaving he soon discovers that he needs to rescue Ergenia and Arius her son from the psychotic megalomaniac king who happened to be father and grandfather of the former.- he’s goal is changed and a new one is reinstated.

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Step 4: begin with plot 1

Now that the beginning hook and the resolution, as well as a midpoint, have been grafted proceed with the call to adventure, something that prods the protagonist to swing into action like the death of Frank’s castles wife and daughter turned him to the “Punisher”.

Step 5: push further with pinch point 2

The protagonist encounters the great difficulty that threatens his/her life and puts her in a spot where surviving is purely theoretical

Step 6: pull through with deus ex machina.

In Onoh’s the sleepless Obele gets stuck in her fathers lounge a place reserved for him alone, a place where he smokes drinks and cruises with his friend, it was a dreaded place for Obele because she has been caught there before and her father didn’t hesitate to inflict welts on her skin, she hears him approaching once more and understands that she is done for, he enters the longue and begins smoking while she takes refuge trying to repress the urge to sneeze which of course if she didn’t would give her hide out away.

But then sister Adaora from nowhere walks in and diverts her father’s attention to his car, her voice coincided with Obele’s sneeze and she is once more protected her father walks out to tend to his car and Obele is given ample time to flee for her life. This simple summary drawn from excerpts of Onoh’s book simply defines the concept of deus ex machina and how it is to be applied, at first the protagonist exist at a certain point with no hope of survival but erratic circumstances shines a ray of hope, like a knife falls from the kitchen table and he arms himself with it and defeats his opposition.

Step 7: the resolution.

This is the one you already created from the onset.

We’d draft back to the Jumanji game excerpt

Hook: a flop proceeds to tamper with a deadly board game

Plot 1: the game begins and he gets stuck playing it, because it is indeed a do or die affair which he can’t quit on at his own convenience.

Pinch 1: the stakes are high when antagonism is presented, the likes of Giant man eating spiders, whirlwinds in the living room and live vines.

Midpoint: at this point the game begins to choke our young protagonist and he insist on putting his head down.

Pinch 2: all seems lost when there is a series of failures

Plot turn 2: a consecution of positive rolls earn him power over the game

Resolution: he is released from the game.

The Hero’s Journey

This name began to exist after Joseph Campbell in 1949 pronounced it to being the standard structure where a hero leaves their everyday life and heads out to face the unknown before returning back triumphantly, this is typically the story of Abraham who leaves his father’s house and chases after an unknown cause he faces all odds and difficulties, like the capture of his niece, Lot, and engaging series of battles with oppositions. this also is divided into three acts

Act 1: from the ordinary world: call to adventure, sometimes there is a disagreement, like a protagonist doesn’t feel he is strong enough to champion an unknown cause, this mostly deals on “the chosen one” type of logic. He meets a mentor if there are any and trains.

Act 2: crossing the threshold: he is tested, he finds allies and encounters enemies, he goes deeper, he meets a terrible ordeal which maybe involves the sacrifice of a partner or friend,

Act 3: Victory, Reward, Journey home at the end.

The W-plot

This plot consists of 5 turning points which bring to understanding the idea of a’ W’ the first act is the downward stroke of the W, the second is presenting a rebound from issues that’ll lead to the second triggering point, the middle of the W. the next stroke downwards constitutes the worsening of the problem leading to the second turning point. Then the last act is the upward stroke that completes the W-shape, which is the resolution.

But what if you are a pantser, a person who doesn’t get excited by the idea of grafting a plot of finds plot exciting?

Well that doesn’t make you less of a writer; some rather take this kind of road where they scribe in one piece at the initial start of a creative explosion but note the following that would guide you while you run across lines at a single instance

  • All stories must have a character and issue to be solved
  • All stories must have a conflict and a change
  • A novel needs to contain light and shade; this involves contrasts with reflective moments- concentrated action as opposed to comical relief. Where in your novel would this place be?
  • Exciting happening, something that keeps readers at the edge of their seats.

CHAPTER PLAN

The untold benefits of having a chapter plan are that it narrows down your plot so it can be easily understood by you the writer and managed well, you see it’s very easy to tackle from 5,000 words than a whopping 90,000. A chapter plan helps you understand the structure of a chapter and as well helps you recognize your position in the novel while it’s been crafted.

Every chapter should contain an arc, the highest point of readers’ interest liken this to watching a television series it is only narrating parts of an elaborate story but still, it is bringing satisfaction and that provokes interest.

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While adopting a three act structure for 13 chapters it’d go like this.

Act One

Chapter 1: introduction; introduce the main character in their setting e.g. Sarah-Lynn and Kurt’s arrival to Palestine, they alight from the air carrier and make way towards their designated lounge.

Chapter 2: the involvement of a dramatic occurrence that changes the life of the characters. As it is tradition in every 5-star hotel for loungers to mount in a common room and engage in relaxation, although it’s based on preference, Sarah and Kurt conveys at the common room and overhear a mentally constrained woman bicker before creating a scene hinting on the sudden disappearance of her husband and eldest son.

Chapter 3: reacting to the dramatic occurrence. Sarah and Kurt makes moves to converse with the mentally constrained lady who is now detained and addressed therapeutically

Act Two: {rising action)

Chapter 4: obstacle: Sarah and Kurt establishes communication with the lady, but she renders vague description and narration to them, inter switching words telling them on one hand that she was reacting to stress and antidepressant and on the other hand telling them that her early performance were true. she promises that she’d do better the next day after resting her mind with a good night sleep.

Chapter 5: obstacle: they come back the next day to hear from the lady but she is nowhere to be found, the room she was held in is reported to have never existed, they meet people who they believed had been around the previous night where the scene occurred but they individually testify to having no knowledge of her or her whereabouts.

Chapter 6: realisation: they begin a little investigation and soon discover a person who relatively has experienced such, he tells them about the constant disappearance of people and how the world moves on as if they never existed, he tells Kurt he’d do everything to help their investigation and solve the mystery

Chapter 7: midpoint twist: the beginning of their investigation takes them to government houses to question people In power, to the dishevelled and impoverished, to friends in high and low places, but then Kurt begins to misbehave and then he confesses the disappearance of his daughter and wife and soon creates a scene, he is restrained.

Chapter 8: Obstacle: Sarah confronts Kurt and Kurt relays not feeling too well, he tells her most of what happened were as a result of stress getting to his head and that he didn’t really mean them he demands to rest, the next day he is missing.

Chapter 9: Disaster: she becomes bewildered, she can’t reach out to Kurt she asks her Palestinian friend to lend her a hand in finding him, he confesses to not knowing who she speaks off, she meets several people asking about Kurt they all reply with similar answers of not knowing him.

Chapter 10: Obstacle: she tries to establish communication with her American associates but her connection is damped and she soon discovers that the society she stays in is a bit backward, they only use the oldest form of telephone to communicate and that hinders her communication with outside of Palestine, she seeks for other sources of communication and establishes communication she is found by unknown men and kidnapped.

Chapter 11 : crisis/twist: she is taken to a deserted hospital where operation are being carried out heavily, she finds Kurt’s body mutilated and laying lifeless on a stretcher with a series of his organs displaced and him being wired with bacterias, she also discovers that the ring leader of the operation is an affiliate to the American government and their representative was the Palestinian that offered to help them in chapter six.

Act three(climax and resolution)

Chapter 12: diabolic revelation: she dines with head Palestinian of the operation, he fills her in on their plots, he tells her that they are making bio-weapons and using humans as carriers it’s a silica brain worm that is gotten via water , it kills humans with few days and then their body is stolen and altered till they become mindless killing machines who would eventual be trained to work among humans and carry out the infection process at night till every human has it and then the world would fall under one power.

Chapter 13: Sarah plots her escape form Palestinian captivity and actualizes it, she communicates with her American associates demanding for an instant pick-up that the case has been unravelled, she tells them about it via call before her connection becomes terminated. She hides throughout the night.

Chapter 14: her pick up arrives immediately, Sarah is summoned to attest to her words she denies it and says she was reacting to stress and is still sober from the loss of her husband and son. She appears to be acting up and believing life is meaningless without her husband and child(who she believes actually existed) she takes a leap of faith from a bridge in order to commit suicide but she is saved and brought back to life, she has no memory of anything.

You can add more notes under the headlines about what the characters look like, dialogue, impression, locations, description of the environment, and ideas about how the main character would develop a relationship with the environment when you make yours. You can also make subplots about secondary characters and weave them into the initial plot just to create light and shade and also give realism to the environment of the novel. Goodluck



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