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27.06.2013 09:56    Comments: 0    Categories: Structure      Tags: novel structure  novel  writer's digest  

The essential elements of a novel include chapters, characters, such as a protagonist and antagonist, dialogue, point of view, theme, setting, and plot.

First, let’s address what a chapter is. Chapter divisions are an author’s means of organizing the major events and developments in your novel and provide easy transitions in time, place, or point of view. Many writers and agents like to have a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter that keeps people reading and on the edge of their seat. What and how much goes into a chapter is up to you.

Changing scenes within a chapter can be accomplished by a simple paragraph change, using a transition phrase like The next morning she … Or it can be accomplished by leaving blank lines between paragraphs, a technique especially helpful when the scene change also involves a change in viewpoint.

Characterization is one of many important elements of fiction. A character is a participant in the story. Some examples of characters are protagonist and antagonist. The protagonist is the main character of a story, the one the author spends the most time exploring or developing and the one whose conflict moves the plot along. Sometimes the protagonist can also be the story’s first-person narrator. The antagonist is the character who opposes the protagonist, or the hero and provides the story’s conflict.

dialogue is an essential element of fiction and, to some degree, memoir. Dialogue consists of conversations between two or more people, and can be used heavily or sparsely.

A good dialogue positively affects pacing—makes a novel easier to read by relieving the reader from long descriptive passages—it also effectively characterizes and adds to the reality of the speakers. Dialogue can also take the place of long character descriptions because what a character says about himself/herself and how a character speaks about others should give clues to his/her personality, emotions, attitudes, opinions, and desires. In addition to reveling character, good dialogue must also advance the plot by giving information that heightens conflict or by building tension between characters.

Plotting is just storytelling with extra attention to form. The story is a sequence of events; the plot is the larger change that happens through those events.

You can identify a plot by a change: your protagonist’s circumstances change over the course of the novel.

The two dimensions of the plot are the action plot, which is the change in circumstances, and the emotional plot, which is the characterlogical or emotional changes for the protagonist.

A plot matters only if readers are interested in the characters involved. A plot should be designed to take your character to the emotional point, while leading the reader (and likely the characters) to the points of or the questions raised by the thematic point, all while giving the reader the experiences in the experiential point.

Your plot is over when the changes have been completed, and/or when all of the points have been achieved. You want your novel to start as close to the beginning of one of these changes as possible. Once you’ve reached the climax of both kinds of plot, the book should end within three chapters.

A point of view refers to the perspective from which the story is told. There are three additional points of view—first-person narration, third-person omniscient and third-person limited.

Choose one point of view that works best for your plot, characters, and setting. Ask yourself, what would I want my characters to think or say?

In first-person narration, the narrator—often the protagonist—tells the story from his/her perspective, and the information given to the readers is filtered through this character. Some examples of books with first-person narration are The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger.

In third-person omniscient, the story is narrated by an all-knowing voice that does not belong to any one character but instead gives readers access to the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of all characters. The narrator refers to the characters using third-person pronouns. An example of this is in the books The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Finally, a third-person point of view is a story narrated by a removed voice that does not belong to any one character but focuses on a single character and only gives the readers access to the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of that focused character. The narrator refers to the characters using third-person pronouns. An example of this is Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

Another element is the theme, which is the point a writer wishes to make. It poses a question—a human problem.

Lastly, a setting is the time and location in which a story takes place. The location and time frame of your story is more than just a stage for your characters. In some cases, the setting becomes a character itself. And the entire attendant details—societal conventions, seashores, mountains, regional dialects—determine the overall tone. Setting and description become essential in your novel because it has to have a setting rich enough to match the story you intend to tell.



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