Overal Structure of a Novel

Structuring-Your-Novel

As some of you know, I internet and book stalk K.M. Weiland. I just finished reading her book, Structuring Your Novel Essential keys to writing an outstanding story. It’s an excellent resource for beginning and more experienced writers. Her informal witty conversational tone make the book easy to read and understand. She uses examples from her own fiction to demonstrate ideas throughout the book. Here is part one of what I learned. I’ll cover Scenes and Motivation Reaction Units in Part two and three, so stay tuned in.

K.M. Weiland is a proponent of the three-act structure for novels. From the opening sentence, you must hook your reader with action and a specific character. Within Act one, you have the inciting event and the Key event.  The reader should ask the major story question, which will be answered in the climax. Smaller questions will keep the action and suspense going along the way.

The inciting event is the thing that sets the story in motion. Sometimes this occurs before the story begins, but frequently it will be in the first couple of chapters. The Key event draws your protagonist in to the story. Act one concludes with the first major plot point. This point should draw your protagonist into the plot and slam the door behind him. There is no going back or changing course.  Typically, the setting and/or surrounding characters change from this point out.

Act two is the bulk of your novel and contains pinch point one, plot point two (midpoint), and pinch point two. Pinch points are times in the story, between the plot points, where the antagonist flexes his muscles and reminds the antagonist of his strength and determination lest the protagonist forget what is at stake in the story. The second plot point(midpoint) is a game changer in the story. The protagonist goes from reaction to situations to taking action toward his goal.

The first half of the novel the protagonist is climbing the mountain dodging whatever the antagonist throws down at him. The summit is the second plot point. The second half is the protagonist chasing the antagonist down the other side. Mind you, the antagonist is still a huge threat and lays landmines and other nastiness along the path.  The antagonist is not running out of fear of the protagonist, but because recklessness is fun.

The second act ends with the third plot point. This is usually a low point for the protagonist. A reminder of the challenge he took on at plot point one. Like plot point one, this is a doorway that must slam shut once the protagonist steps through. Things change here, probably not for the better and the protagonist must rise to the occasion enough to keep moving toward the climax.

The pace of the novel increases in act three. All of your subplots and twist should be funneling into the climax. You probably want to wrap some of them up on the way. The climax occurs about three quarters of the way through act three. The climax should resolve the major question proposed at the beginning of the story.

The resolution follows the climax. The resolution doesn’t have to be long, but the reader needs to know that the lives of the characters they have grown to love go on in one form or another. This is important even if you are writing a series.

 

Define Yourself

girl with arms raised

Many people put their dreams and goals off for the right time.  You hear these and similar words all the time.

“I’ll do it when my kids are grown.”

“When I retire, I’ll have time to work on my dreams and goals.”

“Once I’m stable in my job, I’ll have time.”

Life won’t wait for you to decide your dreams and goals are important. It keeps right on going day in and day out, despite what you are doing. One day, it will be gone, and you will be left standing in the void wondering, what if..?

What if I broke my goal down into something I could do once a week or once a month to get me closer to achieving it?

What if I could find 15-20 minutes a day to work on my goal?

I’m asked all the time, how I am able to be a single mom, full-time attorney, ultrarunner, and writer.  Here’s my answer:  I can do it because it’s important to me. I can do it because everything else is dropped like a dirty diaper.

You have to be willing to sacrifice. You have to delve deep and find what is important to you and who you want to be for yourself and the world.

You have to leave behind people who don’t support your efforts at achieving your dreams. Sometimes that means cutting them off completely or regulating them to a small role in your life. Chasing your dreams is hard work. Don’t drag unnecessary weight with you.

It comes down to that question we all began to answer the moment we drew our first breath, who am I? We exerted our independence as toddlers and again as teenagers trying to define who we were separate from those around us.

As we become adults, we become caught up in society’s grey dream as automatons. We color within the lines laid before us by others. We paint by the numbers.  We wait for the right time and the right place to escape into our dream.  If you don’t work toward your dreams, you will be paid to work toward someone else’s. Why is theirs more important than yours?

It is not what we do that defines who we are. It is the why we do it that defines us. Decide your dream is achievable, conquer all obstacles, and jump through any hoop, even if it has burst into flames.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode One

Blue River Town

A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

“Who would you kill?” asked Sam, reading the front page of the Denver Post over her sister’s shoulder.

“No one Sam, and neither will you. Go get your stuff, we’re going to be late,” Melanie said. She pushed the chair back and downed the rest of her orange juice.

“This is insanity,” she whispered setting the newspaper on the breakfast table. She picked up her backpack and shoved her three ring binders inside. How could a law like this pass? Maybe we should just stay home today.  She checked the front pocket of her backpack for her favorite pencil and pen, seeing them safe inside, she tugged the zipper closed. Their smoky cat with blue eyes curled around her leg meowing.

Melanie looked at his food dish. Empty. She sighed and walked to the pantry. Reaching into the bag, she grabbed a handful of the tiny fish shaped pieces and dumped them into Austen’s bowl.

Samantha bounced down the stairs on tiptoe, sandy braids bouncing on her shoulders, and a Hello Kitty purse slung over her shoulder.

“You ready?” Melanie asked grabbing their lunches out of the fridge.

“Yep. I would put a pencil in Byron’s eye,” Sam said.

Melanie shot her a death glare. “Don’t talk like that. This isn’t a joke.”

“He pulls my hair and steals my crayons. Yesterday—”

“Enough.”

Sam twisted her finger in the end of her braid.  “I have a field trip today.”

Melanie cringed on the inside, sending her eight-year-old sister to school on a day like today was bad, but out in public could be life shattering for both of them.

“Really, where are you going?”

“The Museum of Natural History.”

“That will be interesting.” She smiled at her sister.

Melanie pulled the maroon front door of the house shut and checked the lock. Dew clung to her sneakers as she crossed the lawn to her car parked against the curb. She glanced both ways down the street and walked a full circle around the car peering through the windows before clicking the unlock button on her key. God, she was already paranoid as it was. She preferred the term hyper-vigilant, but her friends called her paranoid, only half joking.

She drove the familiar route to Upper Blue Elementary her mind wriggling with the possibilities of the future in their small Colorado town.

“Have a great day at the museum. Mom will pick you up from Ballet at five,” Melanie called as Sam pushed the door of the car closed.

She pulled into the parking lot of Summit High School. Mitchel was sitting in his green pickup truck waiting for her like he did every morning. She put her car in park and turned the engine off. As she stepped out, Mitchel got out of his truck. He was a year old her than her, a senior. His cologne pulled her in before his arms even had a hold of her. The tension left her shoulders with his embrace. She hadn’t even noticed it before. Tension being a normal sensation was definitely something she had to work on.

He kissed her and brushed her long walnut hair back from her face. “Good morning, Mel.”

She breathed him in and rested her head against his chest. Holly clobbered them from the side, her copper curls descending on them like octopus tenticles. All three of them crashed into Mel’s car.

“Did you see the paper?” she asked.

“Totally fine here,” Melanie said smiling as she righted herself from her best friend’s impact. Holly was as intense as her fiery hair and emerald eyes.

Mitchel wrapped his arm around Melanie’s shoulder. She fit perfectly against his body.

“See what?” he asked.

“That crazy Justice Law passed, the one about the killing three people during your lifetime without repercussions.” Her eyes were wild with the implications.

“No way,” he said.

“Yeah, I saw it too,” Melanie said as Mitchel snatched the paper out of Holly’s hands bumping Melanie’s head with his bicep.

“Sorry,” he said. His brown eyes scanned the headline and moved down the page.

“Christ all mighty,” he said.

“Nothing will change here. Blue River is too small, and everyone knows everyone,” Mitchel said, taking Melanie’s hand in his.

“Maybe.” Melanie turned to face her car. The lights flashed and horn chirped.

The three of them crossed the parking lot and entered the school. The first bell rang. Mitchel kissed Melanie again.

“I’ll see you at lunch?”

Melanie nodded. He began to turn away, but then he tipped her chin up and snuck in one last kiss before she turned down the hall where her and Holly’s locker was. Wonder if mom saw the article before she left for work this morning. Melanie’s phone vibrated in her back pocket.

She pulled it out. It was a text from her mom. Passing students bumped and jostled her as she stared down at her phone. Holly looped her arm through Melanie’s and guided her down the hall as she responded to her mom.

“We’ll talk tonight. Sam remember her permission slip?”

“Not sure,” Melanie text

“Alright, have a good day.”

Melanie smiled and slipped the phone back into her pocket. She turned the lock to the locker, left, right, left, and lifted the latch.

“You have chemistry, right?” she asked Holly and handed her the textbook.

“Same as every other B day,” Holly said smiling. “I’ll catch you at lunch.” Melanie nodded and pulled out her calculus book. She pressed her hand against the cold metal locker door, and it clicked shut. Mitchel’s right nothing will change here. Blue River is quiet. There’s not much crime to talk about, and the big cities are a ways off.

“You seen Mitch?” Melanie jumped, ripped from her self-soothing thoughts.  Mitchel’s brother, Seth was staring at her, eyebrows raised, and looking from one of her eyes to the other.

“You okay?” he asked.

“What? I’m fine,” she stammered. Seth was Mitchel’s twin. They were identical, but Seth was a few inches shorter and had bleached his dark hair, turning it orange.

“He just went to class.”

“Cool, see ya.”

The second bell rang just as she walked through the door to class. She slid her backpack off her shoulders and onto the floor as she sank into a desk at the back of the room. She had to focus. She pushed the chaotic possibilities that seeped into her mind aside for now. With her binder flipped open on her desk, she dug in her backpack for her pencil.

She wrote the date on the top line of the page, May 3, 2021, and drew the number three in the corner, outlining it, blocking it, and adding various designs as Mr. Baker went over the assignment.

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