Novel Structure

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(I have about ten tabs open right now with sources and articles, so forgive me if I'm all over the place today)

Okay, so this has something to do with plot, but it's not a chapter all about plot. That's next on my list. The novel structure is the basic outline that every plot follows. Plot includes conflict, character goals, and more.
This is the meat of the story. But we have to dig a little deeper, and get to the skeleton.


Take a look at the picture to the right for a visual outline! You may have learned about all these words in your writing class, or you may not remember.

At the very, very basic level of a plot, there are 5 points.

1) Exposition
2) Rising Action
3) Climax
4) Falling Action
5) Resolution

Each of these are essential to novel structuring! Now, I'm sure that somewhere out there somebody has broken these rules and made a fabulous novel, because people always manage to make exceptions. As of right now, though, I haven't heard of a solid novel that didn't follow this simple outline.

Let's look at each step in detail!

1) Exposition

This is, put simply, the setting of the stage. You introduce the setting, the characters, and the inciting incident/the problem. This sets the scene and gets the mood right before the action begins.

It introduces you to the character's normal life, and sets everything up for the rest of the novel.

Simple, right?

Let's use Lord of The Rings so you can have an example. (Don't kill me if I don't include everything, I'm just summarizing)

Exposition: It's Bilbo's eleventy-first birthday. The whole Shire is in celebration! Bilbo is kinda anti-party though, and his only real family is his nephew Frodo. Frodo's cool. He likes to read. So basically everyone's preparing for this party, right? Nobody expects a wizard, though! Gandalf shows up anyway, with his incredible fireworks. So in this part we get to meet some pretty important characters - Frodo and Gandalf. In just a little bit, we'll meet Sam, Merry, and Pippin. Everything is just fine and dandy until Bilbo decides to vanish after confusing people with his birthday speech! (Inciting incident alert!) Before he leaves, he leaves the ring of power for Frodo because Gandalf makes him.

This is basically the end of exposition, give or take some details.


2) Rising Action

This one's really not much harder to figure out. If you take a look a the graph to the right, you'll see that the climax is the peak of the story.

Well you can't just jump straight from the exposition to that climax can you? That'd be like walking up to Mount Everest, taking a couple steps back, and then leaping straight to the top.

It just doesn't work or make any logical sense.

So, of course, novel writing is like climbing a mountain. You have to build your way up with the rising action before you can get to the most thrilling part. I know we all look forward to writing that climax, but it's all about the climb. *Starts singing Miley Cyrus song*

Back to our LoTR analysis. I think it'd be impossible for me to include every single point of LoTR's rising action. It basically takes place throughout all three books, not getting to the climax until the very last book. But let's give it a shot.

LOTR Rising Action: Frodo is forced out of the Shire, his lovely hometown (I really want a hobbit hole, on a side note) by this creepy Ringwraith dudes. They're after the ring of power, btw. The ring which then takes Frodo and the Fellowship on a nice trek across the whole land. This includes battles, temptations, and elves!!! Yay for elves! Anyway, it slowly gets worse and worse. At first, Frodo thinks his task is simply to get the ring to Rivendell. Simple enough. Then BAM it becomes to carry the ring all the way to Mount Doom. Talk about crazy.

Everything just continues to escalate, which is the point of rising action. Think of it as an escalator, carrying you up to Everest's peak.


3) Climax.

The moment nearly every writer looks forward to! It's sometimes tough not to rush it, because this is generally the main point of our story.

It is the most intense, most important part of the story. It's where the prince and princess have the final battle for the kingdom, to let fate be determined once and for all! It's the moment when the detectives crack down on the serial killer.

Let's take a look at our example:

LOTR Climax: After that horrendous trek and all the battles up to this point, Frodo is finally presented with the ultimate decision. To cast the ring into the lava of Mount Doom, and destroy it. It's in this moment that he decides to take it for himself, and slips it on his finger instead.

You see, the climax is what the story has been leading towards this whole time. You have reached the top of Everest now.

It is described as the "turning point" in novels, and from this point forward everything will be resolved or at least calm down until the ending.

If you're not sure what the climax of your story is, scribble out an outline and try to pinpoint the most important or exciting point, where the ultimate decision is made. It's the moment where the couple finally decides to be together for good. It's the battle to determine fate.


4) Falling Action

The opposite of rising action. After the climax, everything starts to resolve.

Here's our example:

LOTR Falling Action: The falling action is long and drawn out and includes Sam and Frodo’s rescue from the lava-drenched plains of Mordor, Frodo’s recovery, the coronation of Aragorn, the hobbits’ return to the Shire, and the departure of Frodo, Bilbo, and Gandalf with the elves. (Such a bittersweet end D;)

It's leading up to the end, addressing any unanswered question and solving the problems. It's time for you to slide on down the other side of Everest. You can't stay on the peak forever, you'll starve. (Besides the obvious lack of oxygen.) Same with your story. You can't hold the climax forever.


5) Resolution

At last, the ending. Is there much I can say about this? If you want details, check out my previous chapter, "Writing Novels #4: The End."

LOTR Resolution: We already saw Aragon become king, and Frodo sail off, so these are all really part of the ending. Now we get to see our beloved Sam and his Rosie, enjoying life in the Shire at last. Our resolution? Happiness. Peace.

If you notice on the picture, though, that the resolution still isn't at the same level as the exposition. This is because it will never go back to the way it was before. You can't bring back those who were lost along the way, or ignore the trials that were faced. Frodo survived, and he completed his quest, but he was still scarred from it. He felt his only option was to sail off with the elves because he could never be quite at home again in the Shire. While we're talking about the elves, they left Middle Earth too, which I wouldn't exactly label as a happy ending, but it's a resolution.


So there we have it. The very basic plot outline.

Put the examples together and you have a story! This is the pattern that all stories generally follow, whether it's a novel, a play, or a short story. I

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