Archive - Novel Structure RSS Feed

The 6 Necessary Elements in Your Novel’s Opening Chapters

Writing a novel is a massive undertaking. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written one or thirty.

And even after studying countless how-to books on fiction writing and taking workshops and listening to podcasts, many aspiring writers still flounder.

Why is that? Because there is so much to learn, and if you undertake this mission to learn without focusing first on the most important elements of a story, you can waste a lot of time.

Yes, it’s important to learn how to craft great characters. And write distilled, effective dialogue. And have a riveting plot. But that’s not enough.

I do more than 200 manuscript critiques a year, some by beginning writers and others by seasoned authors. Regardless, I can tell you this as fact:

Very few of these manuscripts hold up structurally. Continue Reading…

12 Questions to Ask Your Character to Bring Setting to Life

Too often, writers ignore setting. Look—we live in the physical world. We respond to and interact with every single setting we are in.

External elements affect us, our mood, our health, our perspective. Weather, quality of light, feel of the air, smells … all factors that contribute.

Fiction writers are all about manipulating readers. We want our readers to feel certain things, come to specific conclusions. We should know what our objectives are for every scene. So taking time to decide on setting is important and shouldn’t be overlooked.

When choosing settings for your scenes, you want to think about the kinds of places that will allow the emotions, needs, dreams, and fears of your characters to come out. Certain places will trigger these things to come to the surface and will stir memories.

Your character has a past, and even if she never visits any of the places in her past in your novel, other places can draw out feelings and memories. This happens to us all the time.

Of course, if you are putting your characters in places they’ve been before, or they are living in the same town their whole life, those memories and feelings are closer to the surface. The point it, you want to use your setting to help bring out your themes, drive your plot, and reveal character. You don’t have to do this, but by ignoring setting you are missing out on a great tool in your writer’s toolbox that you can use in a powerful way.

Continue Reading…

How Fiction Writers Can Use Sensory Detail to Set Mood

Vivid sensory detail is what brings stories to life. Sadly, many writers ignore sensory detail, for the most part. They’ll show a few things the POV character sees, and, on rare occasion, might note what the character hears or smells.

If you want to write compelling fiction that transports readers into your story, you need to maximize bits of sensory detail for the best effect.

That doesn’t mean you cram full every paragraph with smells and sounds and textures. What it does mean is to strategically put in details that not only enhance the mood of the character but are things your character would actually notice.

Staying in deep POV is essential. When writers drop in sensory details that wouldn’t be on the character’s radar, that’s author intrusion. But the greater travesty is leaving out what a character would obviously notice.

Here’s an example: a character walks into a diner and sits at a table. She picks up a menu and sips cold water from a glass, waiting to order. The author fails to show us the smells that hit her when she walks in, the sounds of people talking and eating (silverware clattering against plates, etc.), the feel of the air and the lighting (temperature, humidity), the feel of the wet, cold glass in her hand, the coolness of the water going down her throat.

Yes, you can go overboard with sensory details, but your character is a physical body in the world, and she perceives through her senses. Continue Reading…

Page 4 of 69« First...«23456»102030...Last »