Structuring Your Novel: part two

Structuring-Your-Novel

The Scene is the basic building block of a story. A Scene has two parts: the action part and the reaction part.

The action half of a scene consists of a goal, conflict, and disaster.

The goal of a scene is usually a small piece of the overall plot goal or it can be a major piece of the plot goal. The goal of a scene must make sense in the overall plot of the story. It cannot be something random just to add something interesting to your story. It must move the plot forward. The goal of the scene has the PoV character (generally the protagonist) trying to obtain or avoid something physical, emotional, or mental. The goal must directly affect the PoV character, if it doesn’t you may what to switch to a character who has a higher stake in the scene. The goal should also lead to a new scene.

The conflict within a scene must flow from the goal. It should be about something that matters to the PoV and threaten the PoV’s ability to achieve the goal. It must be logical or your reader will not be able to remain in the story. Not every scene has to be a major battle. It can be something small that gets in the way of what the character wants.

The disaster should answer the question driven by the goal of the scene and prompt a new goal for the next scene. It needs to be flow logically from the goal and conflict. The disaster needs to raise the stakes, but not be melodramatic.

For example if your protagonist has a goal to obtain information from another character. The question is will he get the information. The conflict could be a million things but for this example, it is that the character with the information is intoxicated and doesn’t make any sense. The disaster is the protagonist never getting the information he needed because the character dies in a car accident on the way home.

The reaction half of a scene consists of reaction, dilemma, and decision. The reaction half can be very short, just a couple sentences, or it can be much longer. At times, it is interlaced within the action.

The reaction needs to correlate to the proceeding disaster. The reaction must make sense in the context of the story and be true to the PoV character’s personality. Reactions are important because they create the bond between the character and the reader. Don’t skimp on the reaction half of scenes.

The dilemma of the reaction portion is where the character reviews what happened, analyzes it, and plans his/her next step. The disaster of the action part of the scene influences the dilemma of the reaction portion. Be as clear and specific as called for in the story.

The Decision must be an organic result from the dilemma. It also needs to lead to a strong goal for the next scene and advance the plot. As will every piece of the scene it must be an important logical step in the plot of the story.

All the scenes of a story should line up like dominos. Each triggering the next in the line.

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.