Thursday, 20 September 2012 21:03

Structure of Your Novel: The Three Act Drama Featured

Written by
Rate this item
(0 votes)

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

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

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.

The End

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)
  • 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:

Click here to return to the index of Articles

Read 577 times Last modified on Wednesday, 17 November 2021 19:20

Comments powered by CComment

Latest Posts

  • The Creative Industry Needs to Look at Things Differently Post Budget 2022
    On 29 October 2021, the Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz tabled Budget 2022 in the Malaysian parliament. RM50 million has been allocated for the arts and culture industry. This comes after a year and a half after the entire industry came to an absolute standstill. With…
  • ‘The Covid Positives’ – life lessons learnt from the pandemic by Phanindra Ivatury
    After a long drawn battle with the biggest catastrophe in our living memory, global humanity is finally getting to see some quintessential ray of light at the end of the treacherous tunnel in the form of COVID-19 vaccines, currently being rolled out to all parts of the globe. A ‘COVID-19…
  • Chaos of Whole Books
    Is it possible to read several books at once? Aneeta Sundararaj finds out. When I was a child, my cousin used to boast that he could read four storybooks at a time. As an adult, when he invested in an e-Reader, he continued to boast that he could…
  • Writing for You? Or for Me?
    Writing for You? Or for Me? ‘You must always write with your reader in mind.’ This was one of the first pieces of advice that I received when I began my writing career. Honestly, I found this extremely hard to do because more often than not, I couldn’t picture my…
  • One Book That Changed My Writing Life
    My latest novel, The Age of Smiling Secrets was shortlisted for two categories in the Book Award 2020 organised by the National Library of Malaysia. When I reflected on the journey that this book has taken, I acknowledged the enormous influence of one of my all-time favourite books, Joseph Anton:…