Bring your novel to market faster by using one of these popular fiction structures.
Whether you’re making a mouthwatering lasagna or writing an irresistible fiction novel, there’s something to be said for using foundational recipes. They provide enough structure to let your creativity shine through and help you produce something wonderful in less time. And I’m not just saying that because I make a mean lasagna.
Today I’d like to talk about two of the most popular fiction structures around. You may soon recognize them from many novels you’ve read and movies you’ve seen, but there’s an important reason for that. They work!
So if you’d like to be a published author by this time next year, then consider using one of these two “recipes” to guide you in your writing.
This is a classic. The three-act structure is thought to have originated with Aristotle, but judging by all the works it continues to inspire, this structure remains as current as ever.
Act I – The Beginning/Setup: In the opening act, the author establishes who the characters are, the relationships they have with others, the environment they live in and what may be seen as the status quo of their existence. This is followed by a dramatic situation that challenges the status quo and serves as a catalyst for all of the action to come. This then leads to another dramatic situation that reveals a central problem needing to be resolved during the novel’s climax.
Act II – The Action/Confrontation: In the middle act, the characters try to solve the problems that arose during the first act, but they typically find themselves in worse and worse shape. This is where the characters have the opportunity to change, develop and grow by learning new skills, interacting with mentors and other protagonists, and preparing for the final struggle to come.
Act III – The Consequences/Resolution: In the final act, dramatic tensions boil over and the characters are forced to resolve the central problem. Then once resolved, the audience can see how much the characters have changed.
The Hero’s Journey
The hero’s journey was most famously articulated by Joseph Campbell and his study of myths. But what are myths if not stories that entertain and transmit important truths?
This structure has given us popular books and movies like The Hobbit and Rocky.
Normalcy: The hero’s journey begins with the introduction of the hero. Here the author presents what the hero’s typical, normal world looks like. This often includes insight into the conditions, behaviors, beliefs, relationships and/or aesthetics that define the hero’s existence up until this point and those who populate the hero’s life.
At a Crossroads: The hero is challenged by someone, something or a situation that is difficult to ignore. As a result, the hero is faced with a crossroads: to pursue a course of action that is fraught with danger or to attempt to stay the current course.
Refusal: This new path is just too perilous! The hero refuses the dangerous path and tries to stay the course.
A Teacher Appears: Someone wiser or more experienced appears in the hero’s life. The teacher guides the hero, helping him or her to become smarter, fitter, more prepared or whatever the specific case might be.
Path of No Return: Now that the hero is ready for the journey, the hero commits to taking the more difficult path.
A New World: The hero ventures into new territory and encounters new friends and enemies. The hero learns and grows from these experiences.
Getting Closer: The hero approaches the goal. It hasn’t been achieved yet, but the hero can now see what it looks like up close.
The Test: It’s getting tricky around here. The hero is put to the test and must experience an extremely dangerous situation.
Desperation: Things look very grim. The hero is extremely discouraged and uncertain if he or she will survive (literally or figuratively).
Seeing the Light: Miraculously, the hero manages to see the light at the end of the tunnel and seize the reward.
It’s Not Over Yet: The hero tries to return home, but must now deal with one or more challenges encountered along the way.
The Final Battle: This is the climax of the story. The hero must wage a final battle that tests everything the hero has learned and experienced over the course of the journey so far.
Victory: Now triumphant, the hero returns a wiser and changed person.
The good news is that you too can be the hero of your own story. If your goal is to be a published author by this time next year, then why not develop your novel using either the three-act structure or the hero’s journey? These two timeless structures have helped produce some of the most beloved books and movies ever.
Dudley Court Press
Dudley Court Press works with writers like you every day. As a full-service, hybrid publishing house, we help thoughtful people write their books and become successful published authors.
For more information, including about DCP’s programs for writers including Writers’ Sprint, Memoir Writing Made Easy, and Aspiring Author to Published Pro, please get in touch at publisher@DudleyCourtPress.com.
To opt in to our Fundamentals of Fiction Writing Program. please email Winsome@DudleyCourtPress.com.