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Getting Started
N O V E L W R I T I N G B A S I C S
E S S E N T I A L E L E M E N T S
STORY
WHAT IS
Story: a unifying narrative (things that happen and are tied together).
Purpose: a goal worth pursuing and necessary (by someone we care about).
Drama: conflict, suspense and intrigue (the outcome is unclear).
​Structure: a comfortable reading experience with clear signposts (what’s
happening / why it matters).
Resolution: a concluding event with positive emotion (goal achieved).
CHARACTERS
Your protagonist must be likeable.
- saving pets, children or elderly
- burdened with problems & responsibilities
- unique hobby, style or totem
- fatal flaw, fear or lack (shard of glass)
- oppressed or repressed
WORTH ROOTING FOR
BIG DREAMS
Many stories begin when one path closes.
Characters will need or want something enough to
take action; but most often fail, at least in the
beginning.
They must be incapable of fulfilling their desires;
an inability to get what they want.THAT FAIL
AN IMPOSSIBLE
CHALLENGE
Characters must be faced with a threat, barrier or challenge SO BIG
that they cannot currently overcome it.
This will force them onto a different path.
The story is the process through which they grow strong enough to
actually overcome the obstacle.
Hint: if they are capable of defeating all the challenges without
changing… your story probably isn’t big enough.
Active antagonist: your story may need an antagonist, who is trying to
get, achieve or do something that puts him at odds with your hero.
UNIQUE Your setting or scenes needs to be vivid and different enough
to keep readers interested: they will also provide obstacles
and challenges, or give us a deeper understanding of your
characters.
Tip: always try to show the setting as characters interact with
it, and only during low-stakes scenes. Only show what’s
relevant, or what the characters notice.
SETTINGS
INTERESTING Your cast or ensemble will be critical for adding
emotion into your story: relationships, betrayal, lies,
promises, romance or friendships or enemies…
Your protagonist should be torn between loyalties and
need to make difficult moral decisions.
CHARACTERS
ROLECALL
• the main character
• best friend (supporter, optimist)
• best friend (skeptic)
• comedian or jokester
• teacher (in a literal sense)
• mentor (wise role model)
• boss
• parents
• siblings
• nosy neighbor
• nemesis
• cute sidekick
• main antagonist
• antagonist's henchmen
• traitor
ATTRIBUTES
• where they live
• what they wear
• hair/eye color
• an object they treasure
• something they love
• something they hate
• something they'd never do
• a unique skill or ability
• a weird habit
• what they want (immediately, and
permanently)
PERSONALITY
OBSTACLESC H A L L E N G E S & D I F F I C U L T D E C I S I O N S
Rewards must outweigh the risks (they must want
goal enough to overcome dangers: must be
completely committed to action). Pressure forces
action, and keeps the momentum.
1 2 3
BEGINNING
Knocked off course
The ordinary world. The
story begins where this
ends.
MIDDLE
Forced to fight
Impossible quest, this
challenge is too great
END
Sacrifice to win
Returning changed. They
return to find the world the
same, but they are
different.
TENSE/POV
Who is telling this story? How much do they know?
How much can they see? Has it already happened or
is it unfolding?
1st = “I” / 2nd = “You” / 3rd = “he, she, it, they”
Limited or Omniscient
Present or Past Tense
LINEAR
TIMELINE
Momentum and urgency are easier to handle when each
scene or chapter is crucial for activating the next bit of
action. Something happens or changes; the characters are
forced to respond or react; then something else happens.
Think of it like a line of dominoes. If you remove just one
piece – or if one piece is not necessary for the story to
develop - the whole thing will fail.
Watch out for: backstory and infodumps
See if you can write your story in a few sentences, using this formula.
My character is a _____ who wants _____. But then when ________, they're forced to _____.
And they have to choose between ________ and _________.
In the end, they learn _____ .*
*probable theme of the book; but don't worry if yours doesn't have a crucial or critical theme, it's not necessary.
YOURTURN

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Novel writing basics 1 (what is story)

  • 1. Getting Started N O V E L W R I T I N G B A S I C S E S S E N T I A L E L E M E N T S
  • 2. STORY WHAT IS Story: a unifying narrative (things that happen and are tied together). Purpose: a goal worth pursuing and necessary (by someone we care about). Drama: conflict, suspense and intrigue (the outcome is unclear). ​Structure: a comfortable reading experience with clear signposts (what’s happening / why it matters). Resolution: a concluding event with positive emotion (goal achieved).
  • 3. CHARACTERS Your protagonist must be likeable. - saving pets, children or elderly - burdened with problems & responsibilities - unique hobby, style or totem - fatal flaw, fear or lack (shard of glass) - oppressed or repressed WORTH ROOTING FOR
  • 4. BIG DREAMS Many stories begin when one path closes. Characters will need or want something enough to take action; but most often fail, at least in the beginning. They must be incapable of fulfilling their desires; an inability to get what they want.THAT FAIL
  • 5. AN IMPOSSIBLE CHALLENGE Characters must be faced with a threat, barrier or challenge SO BIG that they cannot currently overcome it. This will force them onto a different path. The story is the process through which they grow strong enough to actually overcome the obstacle. Hint: if they are capable of defeating all the challenges without changing… your story probably isn’t big enough. Active antagonist: your story may need an antagonist, who is trying to get, achieve or do something that puts him at odds with your hero.
  • 6. UNIQUE Your setting or scenes needs to be vivid and different enough to keep readers interested: they will also provide obstacles and challenges, or give us a deeper understanding of your characters. Tip: always try to show the setting as characters interact with it, and only during low-stakes scenes. Only show what’s relevant, or what the characters notice. SETTINGS
  • 7. INTERESTING Your cast or ensemble will be critical for adding emotion into your story: relationships, betrayal, lies, promises, romance or friendships or enemies… Your protagonist should be torn between loyalties and need to make difficult moral decisions. CHARACTERS
  • 8. ROLECALL • the main character • best friend (supporter, optimist) • best friend (skeptic) • comedian or jokester • teacher (in a literal sense) • mentor (wise role model) • boss • parents • siblings • nosy neighbor • nemesis • cute sidekick • main antagonist • antagonist's henchmen • traitor
  • 9. ATTRIBUTES • where they live • what they wear • hair/eye color • an object they treasure • something they love • something they hate • something they'd never do • a unique skill or ability • a weird habit • what they want (immediately, and permanently) PERSONALITY
  • 10. OBSTACLESC H A L L E N G E S & D I F F I C U L T D E C I S I O N S Rewards must outweigh the risks (they must want goal enough to overcome dangers: must be completely committed to action). Pressure forces action, and keeps the momentum.
  • 11. 1 2 3 BEGINNING Knocked off course The ordinary world. The story begins where this ends. MIDDLE Forced to fight Impossible quest, this challenge is too great END Sacrifice to win Returning changed. They return to find the world the same, but they are different.
  • 12. TENSE/POV Who is telling this story? How much do they know? How much can they see? Has it already happened or is it unfolding? 1st = “I” / 2nd = “You” / 3rd = “he, she, it, they” Limited or Omniscient Present or Past Tense
  • 13. LINEAR TIMELINE Momentum and urgency are easier to handle when each scene or chapter is crucial for activating the next bit of action. Something happens or changes; the characters are forced to respond or react; then something else happens. Think of it like a line of dominoes. If you remove just one piece – or if one piece is not necessary for the story to develop - the whole thing will fail. Watch out for: backstory and infodumps
  • 14. See if you can write your story in a few sentences, using this formula. My character is a _____ who wants _____. But then when ________, they're forced to _____. And they have to choose between ________ and _________. In the end, they learn _____ .* *probable theme of the book; but don't worry if yours doesn't have a crucial or critical theme, it's not necessary. YOURTURN