Plotting a novel & writing scenes (How to write a novel – Part 2)

Once you have the idea for your novel, take some time to develop it into a one or two line summary or maybe a story goal. For e.g., it might be something like: “A London based artist plans to avenge the death of her sister, who dies under mysterious circumstances.”

From here you brainstorm different ideas as it comes to you. Your idea maybe in the form of an image who may also be the main protagonist of the novel. For the purpose of our article, let’s visualise the image as that of a female who is an artist and in her early twenties. You can give her a name, say, Nina Michaels. You can describe her personality – maybe she is quiet and reserved, and you write that down. Then next you can write about how feels, meaning her emotional state at that point of time. Her emotions could be running high as she is vastly devastated by her sister’s death, and also agonised because her death has not been resolved in a correct manner by the police. Then from here you can jot down ideas about the sister who has passed away. Give her a name, say, Maya Michaels. You can mention her profession which could be that of an upcoming model in a reputed fashion house. Then you can roughly jot down ideas about the suspects here. It could be her ex-boyfriend or her colleague. You may jot down the consequences that might have taken place, for example, the police closed down her file as a suicide case. The reasons you can jot down roughly as because the victim was going through a depressive phase at being jilted by her boyfriend. And also one more reason you can mention, such as, she had been found to take prescribed drugs. So you allow the free flowing of ideas and randomly jot them down as they come to you. You can have a rough sketch of your ideas in clusters or in a Venn diagram, however it suits your creativity and sense of organisation.

Once this is done you can use these ideas to write different events or situations you visualise happening in the story. This may be as long as ten to fifteen pages or more.

You could write about how Nina is in her daily life, where does she live and how are the people around her. You can give more details about her, such as, she is a multi-media artist who works in an advertising agency. She lives a very quiet life in London city, just to highlight the contrast in her personality as regards to a busy capital city like London. Then you can write in detail about the conflict that brings about a change in her personality. You can ponder awhile to empathise how protagonist would be feeling or how she would be passing days in her life. Then we can dangle the ‘opportunity’ factor here which Nina could use to bring about a change in her life as well as resolve the conflict she is facing. At this point of time you can bring up some supporting characters that might come to help or have a connection with her conflict. You can also take some time to describe each of the supporting characters and write what relation they have with each other. Maybe there is a probability of a romance surfacing or you can add some pointers about who the antagonist might be. So once you have this content, make a rough outline of all the ideas, events and characters in a linear fashion. It should all be shaped in a logical sequence. This is what is called the backbone of the story.

Once you have a rough backbone of the story, write different scenes that work towards the resolution of the story goal. In each of the scenes, write a small summary of may be four or five lines. If you are out of ideas for a particular scene just keep it for now and move on to the next scene; you can come back to it later. After finishing a rough draft of all the scenes, you can develop each scene into a chapter of maybe of 2000 or 3000 words depending on the word count of the book.

You can also plan the number of chapters beforehand and divide these chapters into three parts –
also known as the three-act structure. The three-act structure is a popular model, used by many authors to write their plays, novels, poetry, comic books, short stories etc. In this structure what you do is plan the number of chapters for your entire novel – say thirty chapters. The first part or Act 1, also known as the beginning, consists of ten chapters. The beginning explains the setup of the novel such as introduces the protagonist, the conflict, the circumstances that come about due to the conflict, the opportunity for change, the objectives and action plan the protagonist takes to resolve the conflict. You also write about the settings here and introduce the supporting actors.

The middle portion of the three-act structure is where the confrontation takes place. It consists of the changes that take place in the protagonist’s life due to his or her decisions, other subplots of the supporting characters, enemies gained, the experiences and lessons learnt that further strengthen the story goal. Some fun incidents in the protagonist’s life can also be added here such as celebrations, reunions and romances. You can also introduce the antagonists here or they may be already introduced but here is where their shady traits are revealed. In relation to the antagonists, you can show how they weaken or strengthen the protagonist in achieving his or her goal.

The third act or last ten chapters, is where the resolution takes place. Pressure mounts as the protagonists faces obstacles after obstacles. Encounters are shown where the protagonist faces relentless defeat and despair as nothing seems to be right here. Other discouraging situations come up, and maybe some secrets are revealed too. There may also be some sacrifices involved or maybe death of one or two characters. Tension reaches its peak here till crisis reaches final climax and then resolution occurs.

As you keep moving onto the next chapter you have to make it a point to revise the previous chapter so that it is not too messy later on. Once you complete the whole draft, you go back to the beginning for another round of re-edit.

For e.g., here in my story, let’s suppose Nina finds out that her sister was jilted by her boyfriend before her death. Maya’s boyfriend was none other than London’s famous billionaire, Ricky Peters. Although an initial suspect, the police set Ricky free after not being able to find any substantial evidence against him. So here we have the conflict of Nina trying to find out more about her sister’s death. In her quest to find out more, she accidently meets Alex Peters, the brother of the
billionaire. Luckily for Nina, Alex comes as a perfect opportunity for her to resolve her conflict. Alex is a new client in her agency and Nina successfully manipulates her boss to assign her Alex’s project.

Hence this is one of the action plans she takes to resolve the conflict. She also learns that the brothers belong to a dynasty of rich tycoons and prior to Maya’s death, their whole family was vehemently against her marriage to Ricky. As the story progresses, Nina studies Alex closely and tries to find out more background information about him and his family. She changes her mode of dressing and style just to make Alex fall in love with her. In Act two, Nina will achieve her goal as Alex proposes to her. But again there is a dent to her plans as she finds herself falling in love with Alex too. There are circumstances where she meets other characters such as Alex’s family who all seem to be very nice. There will be other supporting characters here, like for example, her best friend Tasha. But again there is Ricky’s friend circle who behaves suspiciously towards her. One of them may be introduced as the antagonist. Towards the third act there is a fight between Nina and Alex as he realises her true motives for falling in love with him.

Once you have all the scenes roughly drafted, it gets easier to develop it into full fledged chapters. Before you know it, you find your fingers are flying around with sentences, dialogues and events all falling easily like a heavy downpour. In no time, your first draft is ready and from then on you keep going back to remove unnecessary paragraphs, bad sentences or add some new ones. Henceforth, you go on polishing your manuscript with as many re-edits required, till you feel completely satisfied with the final manuscript.

Now that your novel is complete, you can sit back and revel this moment for a while. Hey! You are the author of this huge manuscript which everyone calls a novel. Your novel! Time for celebrations and new hope as you gather information about various literary agents across the country or seek to pursue alternative methods of publishing.

Author:               Pratibha R DH
Facebook:           https://www.facebook.com/Author.Pratibha

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