Writing a Novel?

Tips on Scene & Structure.

Writing a Novel?
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Tips on Scene & Structure

Have you been writing that novel for sometime now and just not sure how to set up your scene and structure? Here are some tips on outlining each chapter & scene, so you don't get overwhelmed in the excitement of it all, and so it's easily understood by your readers. No matter what your story is about and what type of story it is, this outline usually works as a guide, I have found, where you can fit your characters into where they should be in your novel. The rest is up to you!

Tips on Scene & Structure

Have you been writing that novel for sometime now and just not sure how to set up your scene and structure? Here are some tips on outlining each chapter & scene, so you don't get overwhelmed in the excitement of it all, and so it's easily understood by your readers. No matter what your story is about and what type of story it is, this outline usually works as a guide, I have found, where you can fit your characters into where they should be in your novel. The rest is up to you!

Prologue Description (1 Scene) -What should be in a Prologue?

Some people choose to use the Prologue, if you do the threat or aura of violence must be very high. Drama or romance of a high level will work as well. It should be about 4-5 Manuscript pages. In the beginning ask who's involved, what has happened & how bad things will become.

Think of it as a juggler throwing a ball into the air. The prologue isn't told by the Hero viewpoint. It usually takes place prior to the main start of the story. Hook your reader from the start.

Chapter One Description (3 Scenes) -What should be in the first chapter?

Chapter One establishes the Hero's viewpoint. A major change happens. Scare the Hero. Start it quick & hook your reader. The Hero is confronted by another character. There is an unseen disaster. The hero has a long-term major story goal or short-term story goal that will link into a few chapters and make matters worse. At least 2-3 ball's, should go up into the air. It takes place some time after the Prologue.

Chapter Two Description (4 Scenes) -Introducing the Villain!

Chapter Two is from the Villain viewpoint. They should be aggressive, dynamic and strongly motivated against the Hero. They will be well into first steps of their plan, powerful and ruthless. The goal is revealed or hinted at. Another ball into the air. The time lapse is close to the previous chapter.

Chapter Three Description (3 Scenes) -Introducing other main characters.

Chapter Three is from the Hero's viewpoint. It deals with the issue of chapter One. Comes into contact with 2-3 supporting characters. The Best Friend, the Romantic Lead and the Minor Villain. They each have a small story of their own. They each represent a small 'ball' going up into the air. There is a scene or extended sequel which establishes Hero's background and further shows dedication to their main story goal. Painfully alter the Hero's original plans. There will be a short-term goal they have to complete, before continuing their major goal. The Romantic Lead question is planted. It ends at the sequel, with Hero in motion to next big scene. The time lapse close to previous chapter.

Chapter Four Description (7 Scenes) -Start the sub-plot/Raise a shocker question!

Chapter Four should switch viewpoints, from one or more of the secondary characters. Some hours or days should elapse between this chapter and the last chapter. The time should lapse in the scenes as well. Then establish secondary characters and their roles. Intensify your readers interest in the goals of secondary characters. Start the sub-plot here. One or more of the secondary characters should talk about the Hero, Villain, situation or all 3. Higher stakes then earlier realized. This chapter should end in disaster. There should be a startling new development involving the Hero's fate. The disaster is another ball, short-term. Then raise a shocker question. It's a revelation of a problem, complication, issue or raising the story stakes. Something that's unexpected. The story needs a boost here.

Chapter Five Description (4 Scenes) -Raise sub-plot question/Set a ticking clock.

Chapter Five should be from the Hero's viewpoint. Show struggle with the shocker question. This helps secondary character to solve it. When that's done it's back to the original quest, investigation or trip. Raise new sub-plot story question. Another ball. This will come down in chapter 8. The Hero sets short-term clicking clock here, a time limit. The time span between now and chapter 8 must be brief. Maybe hours, or a day or 2.

Chapter Six Description (4 Scenes) -Romance at a glance.

Chapter Six should be 2-3 Scenes in the Romantic Lead viewpoint, as he pursues his own goal or tries to help the Hero. Sequel here defines background and personality. False clue, bad lead or character who seems suspicious but it innocent. 1 Scene in Villain viewpoint, as he is getting wind of the Romantic Leads plan of action, or the Hero's 3 chapter quest. Villain counter-moves. Tantalize the reader, psychologically. Draw out the time the reader gets to read about the Hero's quest.

Chapter Seven Description (3 Scenes) -Three chapter quest.

Chapter Seven should be from the Hero's viewpoint. Deep in their 3 chapter quest. The 1st leads them closer to a confrontation with the Villain. The 2nd momentarily delaying or complicating the situation. The 3rd is bringing them into a direct confrontation with the Villain or their minion. Something physical happens, a car chase or even an attack on the Hero's life. This is the first really big peek into the book. It should end with a new disaster, that leaves no time for a sequel, or at some turning-point in the middle of the ongoing scene. This chapter hooks instantly to the next one.

Chapter Eight Description (2 Scenes) -Villain gets the upper hand!

In Chapter Eight, Chapter Seven's climatic scene continues. Still from the Hero's viewpoint. The Villain pulls an unexpected trick, giving them the upper hand. This causes the Hero to end their 3 chapter quest with total defeat. Then a brief sequel scene, if needed. This is where the Hero narrowly escapes or wins but doesn't accomplish their Three chapter goal entirely. The chapter ends with Romantic Lead or Best Friend there to help them. Hint at stronger attraction here. Re-emphasizing the ongoing romantic sub-plot question. Hint at the possibility of a relationship, which tosses another ball into the air.

Chapter Nine Description (7 Scenes)-Villain experiences a disaster!

Mostly Villain's viewpoint. Sequel showing his reaction, feelings, thoughts about the end of Chapter Eight. Also, in his own way, he experienced his own disaster. A set back, so he lays new plans. He once again proves that he is the Villain by doing something terrible to someone else, possibly one of his own men to blame? Chapter Four's secondary characters sub-plot continued in their viewpoint, then drop it off at another disaster. At the end of the chapter the Villain is moving into a new scene with a new goal, which may or may not be stated. This raises a Villain-plot question, which is another ball.

Chapter Ten Description (5 Scenes) -Re-evaluate everything/Romance is everything! 

Chapter Ten is mostly from the Hero's viewpoint, and possibly one Romantic Lead viewpoint. The Hero re-evaluates, heals up, collects new information. They re-examine everything that has happened and their motives. Then they ask themselves why they just don't resign? They need an answer for their motivation. The main Story goal is restated here, but in a different light. The romantic sub-plot question becomes stronger here. A first sexual encounter should happen here and an after sex sequel to review plot and consider plans. Will they end up together must not be answered until much later. At the end the Hero is committed and moves toward new action. All of the ball's should come down by the end. The middle of any story is like a story within a story.

Chapter Eleven Description (5 Scenes) -Another ticking clock/Hero plans thwarted.

Chapter Eleven is all in the Hero viewpoint. They set out on the course of action from Chapter Ten. They're immediately thwarted or they run into the plans of the Villain. This must be a strong, fast paced, action oriented sequence of events. Each scene shows the Hero's plans, ending in disaster. Some other scenes may be contact scenes, where one scene will run into another one. Another clicking clock is started here. The chapter ends with a strong immediate action hook.

Chapter Twelve Description (3 Scenes) -Small part of the story solved/Hero in disaster!

Chapter Twelve continues with little or no time gap. The Villain gets the upper hand. We see the Villain's plans or motives. A small part of the general story is solved, but in action the Hero cannot use it. At the end of the 3rd scene in this chapter, which is all in Hero viewpoint, there is an even more terrible disaster, as the Hero's last ploy fails and they face ultimate disaster!

Chapter Thirteen Description (2 Scenes) -Ticking clock is up/Sub-plot return.

Chapter Thirteen is in the Romantic Lead viewpoint. It shows them trying to solve whatever sub-plot problem standing between them and the Hero. Disaster should end the scene. They try to help, but the ticking clock tells them it's too late. If there is a major sub-plot, return to that characters viewpoint for review, analysis and back story.

Chapter Fourteen Description (2 Scenes) -Action/ New clicking clock!

Chapter Fourteen is filled with big action! The Hero momentarily gains some ground, but the Villain gets away to fight again. The chapter often ends in a sequel. Perhaps with the friends that tried to help. The Hero sees new information and takes a new course of action. There should be difficulty with Romantic Lead or Best Friend? Maybe the Hero is suspicious of them? The Hero is near wits end, and must start their final novel game plan. If a clock isn't ticking here, it should start here. The goal that will end the story is clearly in view now.

Chapter Fifteen Description (6 Scenes)-Romantic Lead in despair!

In Chapter Fifteen, which is all in viewpoints other then the Hero. They see the big picture and make new moves. The Romantic Lead in despair. The Villain plans his new strategy, after his disaster. The fake clue is cleared now and brings sub-plot to a conclusion. Bring down some balls here. The novel is starting to end. The Romantic Lead is thrown into grave peril here. This puts up a short-term 'worry ball.

Chapter Sixteen Description(4 Scenes) -Prologue made clear/Hero helps Romantic Lead.

Chapter Sixteen should all be in the Hero's viewpoint. It should be a series of scenes where they try to crack the case, but it's thwarted each time. The Prologue is made perfectly clear at this point. Violence should occur at the end of scene 3 and the tables are turned in favor of the Villain. The friend of the Hero, comes to a bad end here, as well as the henchman for the Villain. The Hero learns of the Romantic Leads plight and rushes to help. There is an immediate hook at the end of this chapter.

Chapter Seventeen Description (4 Scenes) -Sub-plot answered/Showdown is now!

Chapter Seventeen is in various viewpoints, including the Villain's. The Romantic Lead is freed. The sub-plot question is answered, but at the cost of putting the Hero on weaker ground. The Romantic Lead is left disillusioned and thinking the love story is over. At the end of the last scene, the Hero and the Villain are closing in on each other. Maybe already face-to-face, on a rooftop, in a courtroom, on the side of a mountain, in a drawing room or parking lot? The showdown is now!

Chapter Eighteen Description (1 Scene) -Confrontation/Ultimate disaster!

In Chapter Eighteen the ultimate confrontation takes place. One long, exciting extended scene. If there is a back-story or a hidden agenda it comes out now, and all of the balls come down. Most secondary plot-line answered. The only ones left are this showdown. The romance seems doomed. The Villain in this scene, plays one last shocking move. It's the ultimate disaster for the Hero.

Chapter Nineteen Description (2 Scenes) -Biggest Fight!/Romance up in the air.

In Chapter Nineteen's 1st scene, the Villain, now with the upper hand, may offer the Hero a way out. Something illegal, immoral or unethical. There is a moral dilemma for the Hero, who must choose between the good, (by readers definition) and lose everything. The Hero chooses and re-opens the fight. This will be the biggest fight, struggle or chase. Pull out at every stop and top all that came before it. Should be filled with suspense, terror, violence. The Hero's scene ends well, unlike others. There should be victory over Villain, but this leaves Hero thinking, was it all worth it? Final question. Make the reader worry, as you hook them into the last chapter. The Romantic story still up in the air.

Chapter Twenty Description (3 Scenes) -Tie up loose ends/Romantic sub-plot answered.

Chapter Twenty's Romantic story question lures the reader into the final chapter. From the Hero's viewpoint. Tie up all loose ends. The secondary characters who have a fairly big part must be trotted onstage, to show their feelings and condition in the end of the book. Bring closure to everything. Everything should become clear at this point. Romantic sub-plot is answered, with the best friend Witnessing. The answer to the main question of the entire book must be answered as well. There should be a sense of the story going on after the book is closed.

Epilogue Description (1 Scene) -Do I need an Epilogue?

One final scene where everything is put into place and the books comes to an end...or does it? Not all books have an Epilogue, but if it does, it sometimes hints at a sequel to another book.

I hope this helps with wrting your novel! Happy writing! 


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some good points there. about the epilogue in the end apparently you are referring to the ambiguous ending that doesn;'t really resolve anything and is ideal for a sequel. It work best for flash fiction stories though, I personally would not use it for a novel.

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