Novel Structure

There is a formula for a crime fiction  novel or movie, although every story is different and how can you have a formula for things that are different? Here is a formula that takes the general mood in sections of a novel or film. It’s always easier to begin at the end of the novel or movie and work backwards to the beginning, as you know where you have been.

The Hook – (Write or outline this 2nd) If you managed to note your ending without breaking out in plottery hives, then the hook is easy. The start of a book is generally the opposite to the ending. Take Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption – At the start he’s trapped in prison, at the end he’s free.

The Plot Turn One – (Write or outline this 4th) Your books moving along nicely, everyone’s happy and then Oh No, there’s conflict/problem/world ending disaster fucks shit up for your hero. This sets your characters on the hook to the midpoint.

The Pinch One – (Write or outline this 6th) Conflict got shoved in earlier and now you get to rub your evil writing hands together and make shit a lot harder for your hero. Apply pressure, use the villain. Throughout the hole story, when you think the hero has had enough shit happen to them, give them some more. The movie Pitch Black shows this well. Things are crap, but then things get even worse.

The Midpoint – (Write or outline this 3rd) The mid-point is pivotal not just because you’re half way through your blood sweat and tears journey but because your characters move from reaction, to action. Of course it doesn’t need to be the actual middle, it could be 30 or 70% of the way through but wherever it is, it’s a change in the characters that moves from the villain driving the plot to the protagonist driving it.

The Pinch two – (Write or outline this last) This is the fun bit, you do your absolute worst and beat your hero with the villain stick while cackling and drinking a G&T. Screw shit up so bad for your hero that everything seems utterly hopeless. The villain’s clearly going to win because they defeated the hero in battle already and left the hero.

The Plot Turn Two  – (Write or outline this 5th) This is where your hero has an epiphany, solves the final clue or sets sail for an epic battle. It’s the point in your novel that moves you from midpoint to ending.

The Crisis & Resolution – (Write or outline this 1st) Every word you bleed onto the page leads to the ending. With the exception of hooking people in at the start, it’s the most critical part of any book. Even as a pantser you will have a general idea of how you want your story to end. Note it down first.

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