Friday, June 19, 2009

The Novel In A Nutshell

Here's another of my attempts to reduce to key kernels my reading on, and understanding of, writing. This time specifically for the novel.

Unfortunately, I can't cite my original sources because I'm taking what follows from notes I've made over the years on various craft classes and "how-to" books, but I'm confident that they're so paraphrased I don't need citation.

I can tell you that one book I return to again and again, and which I'd highly recommend to all writers is Robert McKee's STORY. Of course it's not lost on me that if I'd spent more time actually writing satisfying novels (I've a novel manuscript and two partials rotting in the bottom of my desk drawer) versus reading about how to write satisfying novels I'd be a lot closer to realizing my goals, but here goes:

Beginning: Introduce main characters and what's at stake i.e. what's the protagonist got to gain or lose? Characters reveal themselves, and plot progresses, through action.

Middle: Development of story and characters; a mounting series of tests and obstacles that challenge and put stress on the protagonist. Have your characters make choices and take actions that result in consequences. Only stories where the protagonist is in trouble and must act are interesting.

End: Unexpected rise to the novel's final threat/darkest moment. More surprise with an ending twist. The novel's close should feel satisfying, leaving the reader with a sense of inevitability despite the surprises and a clear understanding of how the protagonist has been forever changed. Avoid too neat endings.

Now, get writing, and happy storytelling.

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