Novel Anatomy: Bones

11 Mar

Plotting. Cringe, go ahead, do it and get it over with. I shudder even thinking the word, but it’s a necessary part in building a novel. Up until about … say a year ago I considered myself a pantser (you know no plot, just write). Huh! I was an idiot. I spent so much time wondering why my novel’s were epic fails that I couldn’t see the fact that they had terrible structure. Sure, I could write line to line in a way that sounded pretty good, but having it all come together? Nope, wasn’t working.

So, for those of you who saw the pieces of my novel I’d posted on here last year and made lovely comments about how un-first drafty they were. You are wonderful, but had you seen the big picture you’d sing a different song. Anyway, lately I’ve been working on a new novel, and I started doing a structural outline. It involves what I call “layering”. You start with the bones, then the muscle, and finally the nerves and skin. So we are metaphorically doing novel anatomy.

I’m now going to share with you part one in Novel Anatomy: The bones.

If you all recall I had a post up the first month or so I had this site called “The Golden Ring of Moments” it was an incoherent thing that listed the 7 key moments readers have to have in a novel. If you’d like to interpret that you can see it HERE.

The Bones of novel anatomy is loosely based on that. I really like plotting this way and find it easy and really direct, because you’re giving yourself a specific set of questions that have specific answer. I set this up in a word document (or in OneNote if you have it, OneNote is awesome by the way).

Here it is:

1. You have to ESTABLISH THE WORLD (if your writing contemporary you don’t really need to worry about this, but in fantasy/dystopian/etc. this is key!) You have to do this with in your first chapter or two (depending on their length) so your reader feels like they understand there surroundings.In this bullet, list things you’ll do to establish your world, specific details, situations, time, place, etc.

2. At the same time as bullet one you also have to do bullet two, which is ESTABLISHING YOUR MC’s RELATIONSHIPS with close family, and or important characters. While you are world building we should be seeing how and who your MC relates to. (if anyone) so in this bullet, list key relationships and how your MC feels about them.

3. Finally, with in the first couple of chapters, and this goes along with one and two, you need to establish WHAT YOUR MC WANTS MOST and why they want it, and most importantly (to the plot) why they can’t have it. So for this bullet just list those. What do they want? Why? And why don’t they have it?

These first three bullets can really go together, but I separate them. Otherwise bullet one get’s really lengthy.

4. After the set up you need to establish your TURNING POINT. I’m sure you all have heard this term before, but it’s basically the point in the novel that springs the character into action. Forces them to change, or go somewhere, or do something. Basically just fill in the blank for this bullet: And then everything changed because________________

5. Then, logically of course you have the characters REACTION. How do they respond to the turning point? What do they do?

6. Everything has changed, our character has reacted and is now hurdling head first into solving the issue (whatever it is), so it’s time for a PINCH POINT. This is a moment in the story that ‘ups the stakes’ something needs to happen to make the character realizes how serious the conflict is. Something needs to scare, shock, or hurt them so that they kick it into full gear. Things need to get more dangerous. So answer this question: What happens that makes the conflict more difficult to solve or more scary to face?

7. Now things are dangerous, your character feels like they are deep in the woods of the conflict and then…. A BIG SECRET IS REVEALED. Now, that  the character realizes how bad things are they need to discover something. SOMETHING BIG. Something that will totally turn the novel on its head. In this bullet tell us what changes the conflict for the character, what do they realize/discover/ or are told that makes them think differently about the conflict.

8. Armed with this valuable piece of new information your character once again attempts to solve the conflict and then… ALL SEEMS LOST. The antagonist in one last-ditch effort seems to vanquish your MC. They were so close and then it is swiped away from them. What does this moment look like in you novel? Why does everything seem lost? When does it happen?

9. Finally, we get to the SOLUTION/RESOLUTION. Basically this is how your novel ends. How does you MC get out of bullet 8? How do they solve the conflict? What relationships do they mend? Which do they destroy?You’re briefly wrapping up your novel in point 9.

Yikes! That was a long post… sorry about that! Anyway what do you guys think of outlining this way? Like it? hate it? How do you all outline?

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6 Responses to “Novel Anatomy: Bones”

  1. lilacandivy March 12, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    You have such a talent for explaining things! 🙂 This was very helpful. As I read it I kept my novel in mind and realized I can envision bullets 1-7, but do not have 8 and 9. So I definitely need to work on that as I edit. 😛
    Thank you!!

    • nkeda14 March 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

      Oh, Thank you! I’m glad this post helped you out. Bullet’s 8 and 9 are always the hardest for me. Ending a novel is really tough! Good luck though.

  2. harmamae March 15, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    Interesting! I’ve often tried to look at things like the hero’s journey, or typical plot structures, to help me when plotting. It doesn’t always work out, but at least it gives you a hint on how to shape your story!

    • nkeda14 March 16, 2012 at 10:49 am #

      True. I have to have some kind of template or I get totally lost. I’m kind of detail oriented so big picture stuff is difficult for me.

  3. gabriellan March 15, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    Six and seven are the tricky ones for me. I get caught up in the smaller things and forget to up the ante as I go. As for number seven, I suck at keeping secrets and am even worse at making them XD

    • nkeda14 March 16, 2012 at 10:48 am #

      Yeah… keeping secrets. Not my forte either! I tend to talk a bit too much for that! haha

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