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Ways Novelists Can Break from the Structural Rules

We’ve been looking at the downside to the three-act structure these last two weeks, and I’ve shared my thoughts on this.

Really, stories are basically a beginning, a middle, and an ending, and some writing instructors base their passion for the three-act structure on this. Meaning, since stories have a beginning, middle, and end, that must imply there are three acts.

You can use Aristotle’s concept and translate your idea into three acts: What is the first act? How the story begins. What is the second act? The middle of the story (which includes the main crisis of the dominant plot). The third act is the climax of the story and the resolution. Okay, it’s simplistic, but that’s how many justify the use of the three-act structure.

Doesn’t make sense to me. Continue Reading…

How to Break Up Your Novel into Definable Sections

Last week I started diving into the three-act structure and explained that such structure is random and arbitrary. While many writing instructors swear by this structure, I feel it’s too pat and restrictive to be a “one size fits all,” and, really, it’s the story that should determine how many acts it needs. And even with that, it’s up to the writer to decide if he wants to break his story up into acts or sections.

This isn’t just about “breaking up” a story or creating actual parts to a novel. While I’m going to share more examples of this, be aware that fashioning your story into sections is extremely helpful, and it’s something you can do without labeling them as such for your readers.

Sometimes, after I’ve put all my scene ideas on index cards (as many as I can think of for my novel I’m about to write), I’ll lay them all out on my dining table. Usually I have between thirty and fifty scene ideas before I start writing my general outline. Continue Reading…

The Burden on Novelists to Craft a Great Ending

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we’re looking at excerpts from past posts on Live Write Thrive that tie in with our exploration on scene structure. Last week’s Throwback took a look at scene endings, so this week we’re looking at novel endings.

From The Not-So-Long Good-bye:

Writers tend to get a bit tired, burned out, and sometimes even a little sick of the story they’ve been crafting for months (years?) by the time they see the home stretch and often they push through or rush to wrap it all up so they can figure out where they left their life, kids, and keys that seem to have gone AWOL while they were hunched over their computer. But the ending scenes carry the next biggest burden in your novel, and so if you’re feeling the urge to hurry up and get the $%&*@ book done, or if you’ve already written an ending but it feels flat and ineffective, I’m hoping some of the suggestions I propose will be of help to you.

I recently heard the expression “Get in quickly and out quickly.” I hadn’t heard that before, and it came from a critique partner who felt my fairly short wrap-up ending to my epic novel Intended for Harm was right on. I recognize the truth in those words, for you don’t want to drag either the beginning or the ending of your novel. A “not-so-long good-bye” might just be a good thing. But it needs to be oh-so-right, short or not.

Oh Great—Another Burden

So, just as you have to cram in so many elements in a few short pages in the opening of your story, you also have to accomplish a number of big things in your last few pages. Continue Reading…

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