While in the planning stages of your novel, consider whether you’ve got a proper structure in place. Roughly speaking, this means assessing your story to see if it has been divided into the ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’. As you will see from the explanations given below, each of these segments has its own pace and tone.
The beginning is the introduction to your story and also the foundation upon which your story is built. It is the place to get the reader spellbound, racked with curiosity and wanting to know how the protagonist could have gotten into such trouble in the first place. You should, therefore, aim to do the following:
- Introduce your protagonist, his rivals and the reason for the antagonism between them.
- Set out an event that will change the protagonist’s life in a dramatic way and requires his urgent attention.
- Explain what is at stake for the protagonist and his inner conflicts, if any.
- Establish the time period of the novel.
The middle is often the part where many writers struggle to keep the story going. It would be wise to give the reader a ‘breather’ before the action of the finale. The middle allows you to develop your theme, reveal some secrets or details about the protagonist and some background information.
Here’s an example: the protagonist comes home from work hoping to have a relaxing evening. Only when he arrives home, his wife tells him she’s received a letter. Then they hear sirens blaring. He takes her hand and runs to the back of the house as they are literally being hunted. Later, they seek shelter in a deserted home. There, the protagonist tells his wife about his past and the reason why there are people chasing them now.
Usually, the ending is the final show-down between the protagonist and his rivals. Chances are that your protagonist will win. Beware of creating an implausible twist of fate. For instance, if your protagonist is facing bankruptcy, readers will think you’re insulting their intelligence if your protagonist’s rich uncle conveniently dies and leaves him lots of money.
Many times, readers like it when the protagonist has learnt something from his experiences. For instance, an alcoholic may have stopped drinking long enough to beat up his rival, but his addiction remains and he decides to seek help for it. Indeed, such an ending gives you hope to create a sequel for your novel.
When you spend time making sure that every segment of your novel is done properly, you will create a balanced story and a satisfying read for everyone. You can, with great pride, submit your manuscript to publishers in the knowledge that you are on the path to becoming a successful novelist.
- Bell, James Scott. Plot & Structure: (Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish) (Write Great Fiction). Writers Digest Books; 5 edition (October 6, 2004)
- WritersandArtists.co.uk. Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. A&C Black (June 30, 2010)
- Editors of Writer’s Digest Books. The Complete Handbook Of Novel Writing: Everything You Need to Know About Creating & Selling Your Work. Writer’s Digest Books; 2 edition (August 22, 2010).
By Aneeta Sundararaj
This article was first published on Suite.101: http://suite101.com/article/structure-of-your-novel-the-three-act-drama-a382805