Four ways to Structure a Novel

‘Every story is—at the beginning—
the same opening of a door
onto a completely unknown space.’
–Margaret Atwood

An idea is like a seed – nurturing a seed with good quality soil and fertilizing mix, enough sunlight and watered lightly; will germinate and grow. Like an idea, having the right structure will flourish your idea into a novel.

To clarify, Novel structures are different to plot structures. I will delve into plot structures in a later post but for now:

Four ways to structure a novel:

  1. The Mileau – The milieu is the world—the planet, the society, the weather, the family, all the elements that come up during your world-creation phase. Every story has a milieu, but when a story is structured around one, the milieu is the thing the storyteller cares about most.
  2. The Character Story – Character stories focus on the transformation of a character’s role in the communities that matter most to him. Sure, in one sense, stories are almost always “about” one or more characters. In most stories, though, the tale is not about the character’s character; that is, the story is not about who the character is.
  3. The Idea Story – Idea stories are about the process of seeking and discovering new information through the eyes of characters who are driven to make the discoveries. The structure is very simple: The idea story begins by raising a question; it ends when the question is answered.
  4. The Event Story – In the event story, something is wrong in the fabric of the universe; the world is out of order. The event story ends at the point when a new order is established or, more rarely, when the old order is restored or, rarest of all, when the world descends into chaos as the forces of order are destroyed. The story begins not at the point when the world becomes disordered, but rather at the point when the character whose actions are most crucial to establishing the new order becomes involved in the struggle.

If writing the first draft seems daunting and endless, in most cases, something is missing from the structure. It’s like a house; the walls and roof are essential for a home.

What story structure does your current project fall into?

As an epic-fantasy writer, my current novel falls into the event structure. I have multiple point-of-views but there is a struggle with order: the new vs. old world and the characters.

#DWTSmith #epicfantasy

9 thoughts on “Four ways to Structure a Novel

  1. I think there might be one more structure to add to your list, one that comes up often in older sci-fi: the concept. It’s not exactly an idea story, as the characters are not examining an idea. It’s not exactly a milieu story, as it is not centered on the story world, though the setting does play an important part. No, there is some concept, typically scientific, that is the focus of the novel, and it overrides character and even plot. Examples: the concept of time dilation in “The Forever War”, the concept of a child military academy in “Ender’s Game.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think there are a few more that could be added to the list. I did see the concept type online and I was almost going to add it but I had to stop otherwise my list would’ve been too long.
      Thank you bringing it up though and I hope your writing endeavours are progressing as planned 👍😃

      Liked by 1 person

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