Four Ways to Structure a Novel

Every writer has a different process, a different way of creating, and every story is unique in the way it’s told. What all of them have in common are basic structure rules. In this post we’re going to explore four different types of plotting a story structure; it’s then up to you how you use them.

To develop any of these structures it’s important to remember to advance each scene so that the plot and/or character are moving in a forward momentum. You can do this by asking these questions of every scene and/or chapter: How? Who? What? Where? When? And Why? Some other things to consider are what is the Inciting Incident, what kick starts your story? Take a look at one of my earlier posts How to Plan Your Protagonists Journey, where I go into detail about stakes, conflict and their awakening moment.

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The Three Act Structure.

The first act is the setup. It’s roughly a quarter of your novel and reveals the Protagonist in his usual setting, followed by the Inciting Incident, the catalyst that starts everything off and raises the stakes.

The second act is all about confrontation. Taking up fifty percent of your story, the protagonist faces obstacles that raise the tension, promotes the character to challenge himself and his beliefs, pushing them towards their goal. The obstacles will continue to build up until the Climax of Act Two.

The final act is all about resolution. The last quarter of the story will contain the Final Climax. Then the action will begin to descend, obstacles will be overcome leading to the Denouement.

book pen artist writer author Lorraine Ambers fantasy romance novel YA

The Hero’s Journey.

Through this method also known as, the monomyth, the writer plots the protagonist’s path through nine stages, starting in their homeland, venturing out with guidance, facing difficulties, until they win a victory and return home. In this method, the writer employs The Full Circle Ending, which we covered in last weeks post: Six Superb Ways to End a Novel

Introduction to the hero’s world
Call to action
Crossing the threshold
Meet the Mentor
First challenge
Dark inner moment
Final battle
Return home


The Mirror Structure.

This method divides the story in two, the first half consists ever increasing obstacles for the protagonist. And the second half revisits them in reverse order, bringing resolution to the conflicts. Ultimately ending, once again, back where the protagonist originally started.

The complexity of this divide is left entirely up to the writer. Do they set each problem in a different setting, or with a different antagonist for a dramatic flare? Or keep it subtle, only working the conflict and resolutions?

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The Goal to Decision Cycle.

This method can either be used to develop your character arc, or it can be applied to the plotting process. It’s a flexible way to create structure.

Part 1: The cycle begins.

At the beginning of a scene, your character will have a goal they want to achieve.

The conflict will be introduced as an obstacle preventing your character from achieving their goal. Thus they will be faced with an opportunity to grow and develop or they’ll be called to an action.

The outcome will, unfortunately, result in failure. Disaster strikes despite their best efforts.

Part 2: Leading to reaction/ lessons.

The character reacts emotionally, promoting personal growth.

The dilemma is based on what action they should take next. They’ve learned from their failures and they grasp the opportunity to do better next time.

Once they’ve made a decision, the character is then provided with either a new goal or takes new steps in order to achieve their goal.

This whole cycle then starts again, over and over, until the character has arrived at the end of their story.

Author Lorraine Ambers YA fantasy romance

Some writers outline every detail of their novel: The Plotters. Others take a concept and begin moulding the story as it grows around the lives of their characters: The Pansters. And finally, there are the type of writers who like to take the middle road, roughly sketching a structure and leaving the rest to their imagination: The Plansters.

Which type of writer are you? And what methods do you use to structure your novels? Please share your comments, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and, 2019.


40 thoughts on “Four Ways to Structure a Novel

  1. When I’ve read through the examples and read them a few times through, I’ve realized each of the three books-to-be are resembling a different case of the four you’ve mentioned (though not to the point).
    As for my approach, I had some basic idea for the storyline, though increasingly fuzzy down the road, and went along with it to see the story unfold, as if it was leading me along instead of me creating it. I only took control in later drafts to change what was not working.
    Thus, I can’t say I’ve intentionally used a specific structure but it’ll always resemble one more than the others.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks so much for this awesome post, Rainy! I tend to use the three act structure, but some of these other methods sound fab and I’m looking forward to using them for future projects. ❤ You explained them perfectly, and it was really interesting to read. ❤ xx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks so much for this awesome post, Rainy! I tend to use the three act structure, but some of these other methods sound fab and I’m looking forward to using them for future projects. ❤ You explained them perfectly, and it was really interesting to read. ❤ xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Ethereal Seals: Dragonsoul and commented:
    Building a world for your protagonist is no easy task; this is especially the case in high fantasy genres, where the author creates a realm from the ground up. Maintaining that world in a long fantasy epic is even tougher, but some guidelines can significantly help you with the process.

    Here’s an article from a fellow blogger. She talks about developing the Hero’s Journey and how it relates to your protagonist. Give it a look. Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

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