3rd Person POV in Young Adult – How to do it and successful examples

The Young Adult (YA) section has been increasingly popular in the last decade, with many books being enjoyed by adults well beyond the original 12 to 18 year old target demographic. Prime examples are The book thief, Throne of glass series Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Childrenor and the Pretty Little Liars series.

An overwhelming amount of novels in YA are written from a 1st person POV (point of view), since publishers and readers often claim that this is more fitting as it creates a more immediate connection to the main character and allows for an almost cinematic experience.

POV Pros Cons Examples
1st Person Feels natural, closer connection to protagonist Can only describe what protagonist experiences I woke up in the morning and walked to the door.
3rd Person Limited Ability to narrate beyond one character, protagonist does not have to be present in every scene that is narrated More distance between reader and protagonist Sam woke up and walked to Lisa’s room. He hesitated before knocking, afraid she was still sleeping.
3rd Person Omniscient Narrator is outside of the story and can thus enter the mind of any of the characters As above for 3rd person limited. In addition it can easily get confusing and diffuse the flow of the story Sam woke up in the morning and tiptoed to the door. He was unaware that Lisa had already been up for an hour.

 

However sometimes it is better to tell a YA novel from a 3rd person POV. It could be that the story is too complex to be told from a 1st person POV, which is a very restrictive writing style as you can only describe what the main character is seeing/hearing/experiencing.

The other main reason to use a 3rd person POV is when you have multiple POVs. There are some novels that have used the 1st person POV for multiple characters successfully, however it can easily get confusing. If the two, or more, voices are not very distinct the reader can lose track of who is narrating when. Of course it becomes increasingly harder to use 1st POV the more narrators you have.

Finally, there are writers who prefer to use 3rd person POV.

If any of these reasons are true in your case then the question is how do you prevent your novel being rejected by an editor/readership that is used to the 1st person narrative?

First of all make sure that the novel meets all the other criterions of the YA genre: fast-paced, emotional, not yet mature characters that are trying to find themselves and figure out the world, identity related tensions and realistic adolescent issues (drugs, alcohol and sex).

Secondly, read successful YA novels that have been written in the 3rd person POV and compare them to Adult novels in 3rd person POV, so that you get a feel for the difference and what is acceptable for a younger target audience.

Since most YA books have been written in first person, I have compiled for your convenience a list below that includes only young adult novels written in 3rd POV. Please note that I have not included the Harry Potter series since it is considered a children’s book, although the later tomes in the series do deal with adolescent issues and are definitely worth a read to get a feeling for how the great J.K. Rowling engages younger readers.

 

YA Fantasy & Sci-Fi

The wrath and the dawn (series) by Renée Ahdieh

The winner’s curse (series) by Marie Rutkoski

Air awakens (series) by Elise Kova

Fallen (series) by Lauren Kate

Graceling (series) by kristin cashore

Throne of glass (series) by Sarah J. Maas

Truthwitch (series) by Susan Dennard

Wicked lovely (series) by Melissa Marr

Chase the dark (YA/UF series) by Annette Marie

Smokeless fire (series) by Samantha Young

The mortal instruments (series) by Cassandra Clare

Lady midnight by Cassandra Clare

Tithe (series) by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Uglies (series) by Scott Westerfeld

 

YA Thriller

Pretty little liars (series) by Sara Shephard

Truth or dare (series) by Jacqueline Green

 

YA Romance

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Is your novel Young Adult?

Young Adult (YA) books have seen a tremendous growth in the last ten years. Each time you set foot into a bookstore it seems as if the young adult section has increased once again and is taking up more shelves than ever.

While the target demographic of YA is 12 to 18 year olds, a large chunk of individuals that read the books are often much older.

In fact if you would ask a range of adults to name their favorite books, it would be common for them to cite Eleanor and Park or The fault in our stars as their romance contenders, City of bones or Divergent as their fantasy and dystopian picks, and We were liars as their mystery front-runner. All of which are young adult in their respective genres.

Due to the high success if YA books more and more authors are trying to break into this space. After studying the bestsellers that appeal to both adolescent and adults alike it might be tempting to take a story that you had in your mind and simply make your protagonists younger, in order to be able to call the story YA.

But make no mistake it is not enough to have a main character that fits the ideal age range between 13 to 18 years old. In fact many YA novels have love interests and supporting characters that are above this age group.

When writing YA it is important to consider the needs and experiences of adolescents. Think what matters to them most during this life phase and whether you book covers it in detail.

It is not the age per se that makes a YA novel but rather the thinking and behavior of teenagers that your novel should capture. In this developmental stage the brain is not fully formed yet and individuals often struggle with impulse control and contradictory feelings.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the protagonist has to be a hothead. In fact many YA novels have successfully explored the other end of the continuum by having main protagonists that suffer from indecision or low self-esteem, for example Tenley in Firstlife by Gena Showalter.

While it is common for YA novels to take place in a high school setting, this is not a requirement. It is acceptable to set your story in the summer after the end of high school, the way Trish Doller did brilliantly with ‘The devil you know’, or even in the first year of college, such as ‘The first time she drowned’ by Kerry Kletter or ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell.

What is essential is that adolescent themes are central to the story and discussed. One of the main goals of those formative years is to form an identity, understand who one is and what one want to do with his/her life. The changing dynamic of the relationships with parents, peers and the opposite sex is also central, as is the navigation of how to remain an individual while fitting into society.

Seeing that many teenagers access their books through gatekeepers, such as parents and librarians, sexual scenes and violence cannot be as explicit as in novels intended for adults. This however does not mean that serious issues cannot be discussed in these books. On the contrary subjects such as eating disorder, mental illness, rape and pregnancy often feature heavily in the YA narrative.

Since most young people live in an environment that features alcohol, drugs and sex, your books should mentioned at least two of these. Obviously, your protagonist does not have to participate, but discussing these facts of live and the impact, of any, they have on your protagonist in a non-judgmental manner is crucial.

In summary, if you are wondering whether the story you told could be considered YA, ask yourself whether your narrative discusses issues that are primal in the adolescent formative years, such as identity, fitting into society while still remaining an individual, relations with the opposite sex, raging hormones and legal and illegal substance temptations.

Fine tuning the settings of your novel – questions to ask yourself

The previous post focused on making general choices regarding the location of your novel, such as a real vs. imaginary world and where to set the dwelling of your characters.

This entry will look closer at what to consider location wise before starting your writing process.

Personally, I prefer to make separate word documents, one for each setting that I will use in my novel. But one can also accomplish this task by hand or using other formats such as Excel.

For most writers it is a no-brainer to sit down and think about their main characters, what they are like physically and psychologically, before writing a novel. However, the same dedication is often not given to location. Of course, one could argue that they do not need to write out the characteristics of an apartment or restaurant (I know what an apartment/restaurant looks like. Everyone does.).

But if you truly want to engulf your reader in your novel your descriptions can’t be generic. They need to be good. They need to be precise. They need to convey not only where your character is but also something about your protagonist, the flair of the scene, or the theme of your novel.

While you don’t need to draw in detail each of the houses of every individual that is mentioned in your manuscript, I would recommend doing so for the main ones. You might also want to include a floor plan of a house/neighborhood if your novel has chasing scenes.

Below you will find some questions that are useful in determining the settings of your novel.

Questions to ask yourself when imagining the home of your main characters:

  • What is the character like? What do they like? (e.g. expensive, shabby-chic, minimalistic style)
  • What can they afford? (e.g. neighborhood they live in, seize of home, type of amenities, type of material used throughout the house)
  • Where do they spend most of their time at home and why? (e.g. kitchen –cooking; living room – entertainment and socializing; outdoors- nature person or have a pet, etc.)

 

If the workplace of your main character plays an important part in your novel, try to envisage it as well in as many details as you can. Questions to ask:

  • How big is the office? How many employees work in that building?
  • Is it open-space with open door policy or does everyone have his or her personal office?
  • Are there any restricted areas?

 

Lastly, think about where your characters like to spend their free time:

If they enjoy being outdoors:

  • Do they go to spots of nature modified by people? (e.g. pools & gardens)
  • Do they go into the ‘pure’ nature? (e.g. hiking & surfing)

 

 

If they have a favorite hang-out:

  • Is it a restaurant, bar, café, or music venue?
  • How old is it? (Does it have an interesting past history?)
  • What are the average prices there?
  • What is the crowd like?
  • Is it noisy/busy?

 

Finally, another helpful approach is to draw the main locations in your novel or find photos online or in magazines that represent in your mind the location. You can add them to your file, or your preferred method, to ensure the place you have chosen or imagined remains consistent throughout your novel.

Choosing a location for your novel

This blog post will be the first one in which I will examine what criterions to focus on when choosing a location for your novel.

At the uttermost macro level lays the decision whether your story will take place in the real world or a fictional world. High fantasy books take place in a made up world. The author might choose to give names to various invented countries or even make up a new realm. In contrast to this paranormal romance books are often set at least partly in a real city/country (that usually has been slightly altered), with potential in between spurs where the protagonists travel to a different realm, such as the underworld. Finally, an Urban Fantasy novel by definition should always take place in a modern urbanized area. Of course the real cities that are used as locations are often modified to reflect a certain atmosphere/setting for the novel.

If your genre allows for the creation of a whole new world you are relieved of many limitations and fact checking but at the same time this means that you will have to dedicate more time to inventing this other world in your head and figuring out a way of how to explain its singularities in your novel without creating lengthy passages of realm descriptions that lack action and therefore will fatigue your reader.

On the other hand if you choose to set your story in a real metropolis, you might find yourself double and cross checking the web for references on the areas’ vibe, demographics and of course neighborhoods and amenities. Luckily, Google Maps enables the modern day writer to do this in a quick and efficient manner.

Still, it is very different to write about a city that you have only ever seen photos of versus a city you’ve actually been to. If at all possible, I would recommend choosing a location that you’ve actually been to before, in order to avoid the use of embarrassing and outdated stereotypes of its landscape and culture.

Once you’ve elected the setting of your novel the next step is to draw a map of the city. Again if your metropolis actually exists you can use Google Maps and print out a screen shot. If not you can create your own map of the location and highlight all the points of interest.

At the very bare minimum you will need to decide where your main protagonists and secondary characters live as well as your antagonist. Defining the location of these dwellings will particularly come in handy in mystery novels that include who-had-done it elements, as well as chasing sequences in thrillers, or just-missed-each-other scenes in romance books.

In addition to that the location of the apartment or house of your character will shape their daily habits including their commute, where they eat, whether and how often they go out and where they shop.

The neighborhood also makes an immediate claim regarding the social standing and life phase of your character. For example it would make sense for a large family to live in the suburbs, while characters that had just finished college would probably share an apartment with friends in the downtown area.

Finally, do consider the occupation of your character’s before finalizing your setting. Works of fiction need to sound plausible. It would be hard to imagine a young twenty-something who is an aspiring actress living in the middle of nowhere. However, a middle-aged woman, who used to be a model and is now a mother living in a suburb and trying to get by with the odd modeling jobs at state fair, could make for quite a great plot line.

 

To sum up, when considering what location to set your novel in consider your genre and story line. Beyond choosing a city or area, you will then need to create a basic map to understand where the main characters live in relation to each other. Be aware of how the location of housing influences the life of your protagonists in the short and long-term run.

The next post will focus on the finer aspects of location, such as how to choose a hangout for important scenes and the architectural elements/interior of buildings in your novel.

The hero’s obstacles – pitfalls to avoid

As you write your book the tension in the novel should increase from chapter to chapter. Early on it should be clearly stated what the main protagonist has to gain or lose  – these are the stakes. While the protagonist strives towards his/her goal the author has to throw obstacles in their path to create drama.

  DESIRE + OBSTACLE = TENSION

The roadblocks should be reasonable and make sense for your genre. If you are writing in fantasy it can be wicked creatures, spells and of course the big bad. In romance while there can be outer hindrances, the main ones to be overcome are internal ones. Examples include fear of commitment, low self-esteem, jealousy, negative outlook and so on. The paranormal romance genre should include a mix of both.

Obstacles need to be plausible and make sense for your story. They also need to be resolved before the end of your novel. Even if you write a series, each book needs to have a main threat or issue that arises and is untangled at the end of the story.

 

While too gargantuan obstacles can be problematic, more often than not we see books that have obstacles that are too minuscule or simplistic. An author must choose wisely what roadblocks to put into the hero’s path. But even more importantly the writer must resolve the obstacles in a manner that does not deflate the tension  of the plot.

I would like to use the paranormal romance Wickedly Dangerous (A Baba Yaga novel) by Deborah Blake as an example here on how a too quick obstacle resolution diminishes the momentum. While there are a lot of elements that make the book an enjoyable read, it could’ve been even better if it took the main character longer than a few pages to overcome the hurdles.

For those of you who are still planning to read the novel please be aware that spoiler alerts are below.

The first case of too quick obstacle overcoming is when Baba Yaga creates herbal remedies that instead of improving the condition of her sick patients, worsen it. The build-up to Baba Yaga finding out that there are complaints about her salves, is lovely written. She goes into town, hears rumors, a few indignant people approach her and then she actually goes to a victim’s house and convinces her to have a look at the ointment. So far so good. The problem arises when a few pages later Baba Yaga does not only find out who is behind altering the remedies and thus discrediting her good name, but is also able to reverse the wrongdoing immediately and without much of an effort on her part.

The second instance takes place when Baba Yaga is accused by her rival of physical assault. When Baba Yaga is questioned she conveniently brings three witnesses to the police station, who swear that she was with them at the time of the assault and are well-respected members of the community. The author really missed a great opportunity here to escalate the tension. A scene where Baba is first questioned harshly and then perhaps even thrown into a cell, before her name is cleared, would’ve have been way more satisfactory.

battle-clipart-568

Finally, when Baba Yaga has her big showdown with the main antagonist, she first defeats her in a sword fight and then in a fistfight, without even so much as breaking a sweat. She carries the unconscious villain to the queen as she was previously commanded. Again without any interference. This scene is the grand battle and right from the start Baba Yaga won, completely ruining the tension.

Even the internal issues that were preventing Baba Yaga from having a successful relationship with the sheriff Liam, were resolved in a rather “convenient” and easy manner.

So why is this problematic? Don’t we want the hero, especially in a romance book where a happy ending is 99% guaranteed to overcome the antagonistic force? Yes, of course we do. But only after the hero had fought, was at a place of pure desperation and used ingenuity to win. Otherwise the momentum and drama decrease way too early. Victory that was easily won will never be as sweet as victory, for which the hero had to sweat, bleed and was at the end of his/her wits.

As a reader we want to feel as if it is impossible for the hero to succeed. This makes us root harder and boosts our empathy for the main character. It also increases our engagement in the novel.

Ultimately, the protagonist always needs to undergo a growth in the novel and learn or discover something new. If the hero was equipped from the start with all the tools and knowledge on how to conquer the antagonistic force, then really there is no point in telling the story, is there?

 

 

 

 

Part 4 of your novel

This is the final part of your novel, the grand finale. Perhaps it will be the easiest one to write, the one you’ve been looking forward to from the start. Personally, the climax and the resolution are my favorite parts to write and to read. They can deliver a well-deserved dose of satisfaction provided they are done correctly.

The first mistake to avoid is not planning your ending before now. Prior to starting this part  you should have made a conscious decision about what the ending of your book will look like. You might even find it helpful to write a one page or two page synopsis (something you will have to do anyways when you pitch your manuscript to a literary agent or publisher, so you might as well start practicing early).

Now for those of you who are plotters this is probably common sense and not a revelation; however, for ‘pantsers’ this might come as quite a shock. After all pantsers prefer to “fly by the seat of their pants” and make the story up as they write. Still it is crucial to have the ending in mind, because the finale is reliant on the three previous parts. Only when you are cognizant of the ending do you know what information and foreshadowing has to be planted in the first three quartiles.

Everything that happens in part four, and I do mean that without exceptions, needs to have been foreshadowed. Scooby-doo endings were the culprit has shown up once before in the first 75% during one line do not count. What you want as a writer is to give your reader the sense that if they had only paid closer attention they would’ve been able to solve the mystery and foresee the ending.

 

The two main events that take place in part four are the climax and the resolution. Let’s examine the climax first.

The climax is the big battle that the protagonist has been externally and internally preparing for the entire novel. This is the time when he/she finally finds the courage to overcome inner obstacles and defeat the antagonistic force. Again it is necessary to note that all methods that the protagonist enforces to triumph must have been foreshadowed in the novel previously. No new skills or new information can show up in part four.

If you have a dominant love story in your novel do not forget that the protagonist must save the day. Thus, if the story is told from the view of the female protagonist she has to overcome the antagonistic force. Of course she can be aided but it has to be ultimately her, not her love interest, who actively battles and wins in the climax.

Which brings me to another point. In part four the protagonist becomes a selfless hero that cares to not only save himself/herself but the world. It cannot be merely his/her life that is at stake anymore, it has to be more, such as the well being of his friends and family or perhaps even the universe.

Furthermore, the triumph should be accompanied with a cost. Although the protagonist prevails over the antagonist, something is lost. This could be presented in various shapes. It could be the death or injury of a close friend or it could be a painful realization, which the main character didn’t want to admit to himself/herself throughout the novel.

The climax should take up most of the fourth quartile, with the resolution taking up no more than two to three chapters maximum or 10%. Otherwise you run the risk of boring you reader.

In the resolution all plot lines need to be wrapped up (starting with the subplots and working your way up to the main one). Finally, a glimpse into the new life of the protagonist is presented, depicting the change that has occurred.

The relativity of the ‘happy’ in your end depends on the genre. Romance novels often feature a prologue where the happy couple is engaged, got married or is expecting an offspring. Fantasy novels tend to also portray a happy landscape- the evil has been defeated and the hero’s personality has evolved for the better. In contrast a young adult novels tend to feature a somewhat hopeful ending, one where there is potential for goodness but it isn’t guaranteed.

In spite of this being potentially the easiest part to write it is important to give it lots of thought. If the main job of the first three parts is to keep your reader intrigued and on board of your ship, the finale determines the impression your reader will take away from reading your book.

An unsatisfactory ending could lead to the reader dismissing your follow-up novels or not recommending your book to friends and social media. When it comes to books as well as many other consumer goods and services word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools. It can make or break your career.

Part 3 of your novel

The third quartile of a novel is also commonly called the Attack. In this part the hero transforms from passive into active and runs towards the issue at hand trying to make sense of it and resolve it.

At around 62% the second pinch point takes place. Just like the first pinch point it has to depict the antagonistic force directly. It cannot be filtered through the protagonists’ perception.  Of course it also has to be more dramatic in comparison to the first pinch point. This is when the hero begins to truly unravel.

It is crucial to note that while the main character is active in the third quartile his/her actions are often incorrect in solving the problem at hand and often get him/her into deeper waters.

Crisis-Intervention

The darkest point comes somewhere between 70 to 75% where the hero feels likes there is no way of solving the riddle/winning his love interest/overcoming the evil/changing for the better. In order to make this moment even more dramatic the protagonist if often deserted by friends and family. All by himself/herself the depressed protagonist feels like there is absolutely no way that he/she can come out of the tribulation.

Finally part three wraps up with the second plot point at 75%. Important information is inserted here, one that ultimately helps the protagonist to fight the antagonistic force. It is important to highlight that this information cannot give away the ending or resolve the main issue at hand rather it is a hint. The hint shouldn’t be “too easy” since you still have another quartile of the book left. In fact it is in the fourth quartile that the protagonist properly understands the meaning of the information provided at the second plot point and is able to put it to use. Finally, the hint given at 75% needs to fit in with the prior rules/guidelines of the universe the novel is set in, meaning for example that in the fantasy genre there shouldn’t be a sudden discovery of new powers that hadn’t been foreshadowed previously.

The next blog post will focus on part four – climax and resolution of your novel.

Part 2 of your novel

This entry focuses on the second part or 25 to 50% of your book, also called the Response.

Let’s examine first how the second part would play out in a romance novel. In the second quartile the protagonists address their interest in each other. Despite initially making some progress and spending time together they ultimately scare each other away or aggravate each other.

Everything seems to be going rosy until the first pinch point, which takes place 37.5% into the novel story. At this point the main antagonistic force becomes visible, which in romance novels is often some internal conflict (e.g. trust issues, jealousy, addiction, low self-esteem) but can also be a threat posed by a third party, particularly in the suspense and paranormal romance genre.

Antagonist= person/force against main character

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It is important to establish clearly for the reader how the threat influences the relationship between the main characters. Does it bring them together or pull them apart, why and how?

The end of part two is marked by the midpoint. Externally, there should be visible signs of commitment that the lovers have made. In contrast, internally the author should demonstrated the changes that have not taken place yet but are necessary if the relationship is to work.

Overall, the second quartile has more of an up-beat vibe that is until the antagonistic force shows up at the first pinch point. The midpoint raises the stakes for the protagonist and also introduces new information that changes the behavior and awareness of the main character and reader.

It is important to note that the main character is not heroic yet. In fact he/she is rather passive in the second part, choosing to retreat and analyze the situation.

While this might not be the most exciting part to write or read, it is very important. Both goals and stakes of the story should be strengthened and the tension can’t decrease. The first pinch point helps to inject an element of drama into this part.

Even though the hero/heroine is rather passive it is important to show their commitment to the theme of the book. The reader should understand the goal and the motivation of the protagonist and receive at the very least an inkling as to who the antagonist will be or the main obstacles in the way of the protagonist.

As your write this part, ensure that all chapters are like links in a bracelet fitting tightly together, their sequence making sense. Furthermore, establish the purpose of each chapter. Every single chapter and scene for that matter, needs to have a unique purpose, it can’t be duplicated.

For example if you have two chapters that each feature your protagonist going on a date with Mr. X, they can’t be both just to demonstrate how much the protagonist likes Mr. X. The first one can show her affection, while the second could focus on him requiting, or not, these feelings.

I hope this entry is helpful for you when you write your second part. While this part might not be the most exciting one, it is essential for a good novel. An author needs to ensure that every single part, chapter and scenes is “the good stuff” so that the reader doesn’t abandon ship.

Part 1 of your novel

As discussed in my previous post your novel should be split in four equal parts. That means that each quartile should have roughly the same amount of words, pages and chapters. It might be tempting to rush part 1, especially for those writers, who have gotten rejections or negative feedback focused on their story’s slow pace.

Yet despite this the main goal of part 1 is to set-up your story. That does not mean that this part is boring or that it is primarily concerned with descriptions of places. By all means do include meaningful action and captivating dialogue, but do not plunge yet completely into the main issue of the story.

And here’s why. Before the reader is truly ready to go on a journey with your protagonist, he/she needs to be invested in them- emotionally. In order to achieve this the author needs to create empathy for the main character(s). Show what their life looks like before the big adventure begins.

Introduce important secondary characters and foreshadow the main theme of the novel. The theme is often posed as a question or statement by a secondary character to the main character.

At this point I would like to say something about likeability. While a likeable character has obvious advantages, there are many successful novels with an unlikeable character. In fact recent fairy-tale retellings have been often told from the point of the villain in the original version of the story.

These stories are told from the point of view of the villain showing the hardship early on, thus making it impossible for the reader to see him/her just as a culprit. Actually, even if your character is likeable they should have flaws, which brings me to something that your protagonist should always be, namely relatable.

When readers relate to a protagonist they find his/her actions more plausible and they root for the hero. Even though fictional books are not based on reality they should still be based on common sense. If the behavior, dialogue language or story line is too far fetched the reader will first get confused and then loose interests. Books transplant us into a wondrous world, but one that still follows certain rules and has logic to it. If it doesn’t, reader’s become overtly aware that the story is unreal, which creates a detachment.

Besides creating empathy for the protagonist, part one should also feature a hook. Ideally it would take place in the first three scenes of your book. The hook creates a question in the reader’s mind that must be answered.

fisherman-fishing-book_06

Around twenty percent of the inciting incident or incitor takes place. It is something that happens to the main character, over which they have no control. Once their whole world is put upside down, it leads to a response by the protagonist, either a commitment or decision has been made, which is the point of no return and the true start of the main story.

At 25% the first plot point marks the end of part one. This is the first time when the stakes as well as obstacles of the protagonist are discernibly illustrated. Furthermore, the implication of the antagonistic force is displayed. One thing to note here is that the stakes can either be something to be gained or something to be lost by the protagonist. As an author it is pivotal to determine the stakes of each of the primary characters, even though they are not featured at this point blatantly.

Thank you for reading. The next entry will focus on Part 2 or The Response.

Novel structure

This post will explain in detail the main milestones of a novel on which you should focus as a reader and writer. If you are interested in finding out what else to focus on when reading please check out my earlier post Effective reading for writers.

I will upload another post soon where a particular novel is broken down by structure to show highlight in depth the main beats.

For now I will briefly outline the basic framework of a novel, each stage that should be identifiable in a fictional book. It may also be worth noting down the structure as an aide for when you are ready to write your own fiction manuscript.

 

Part 1

20% the Inciting incident aka the Incitor: something happens that plunges the reader into the main adventure/story that the book will cover. Everything before that should really focus on familiarizing us with the world of our protagonist and creating empathy for our main character(s).

In a romance novel at this point the author hints at why the protagonists are right for each other, while at the same time displaying how they are not ready to admit it yet.

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25% First plot point: at this particular point information is provided that changes what the reader and protagonist know. It also drives the behavior of the main character in part two.

In a romance novel an external event, over which the characters have no control, occurs that leads to the protagonists spending time together. Simultaneously they make a decision that suggests their romantic interest in each other.

 

Part 2

After the first plot point our hero/heroine retreats, mulls about the new knowledge and tries to make sense of what is happening.

At around 37.5% of the novel or 3/8 of the book the first pinch point comes into play. It is a direct reminder of the main threat in the story and shouldn’t be narrated through the eyes of the protagonist.

The evil needs to show up directly and create tumult via an attack, assault, murder, break-in and etc.

It is not enough for the protagonist to merely think/worry about the antagonistic force.

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For some genres it is easier to outline the big bad. In thrillers and mysteries it is often a killer on the loose, while fantasy has a super natural malicious force. If you write in the romance genre the threat can be external or internal. It is crucial to pay attention to how the pinch point affects the romantic relationship.

Now if the major antagonist in your novel is not a character or evil force but rather something internal e.g. fear of rejections, jealousy, something negative should still take place. An internal monologue of the protagonist about his/her shortcomings is not enough.

Let’s say that you write a love story and the biggest issue between the two love interests is the male protagonist’s jealousy. At the pinch point we would see the jealousy clearly displayed, through e.g. assaulting another character or another disturbing and unwarranted deed.

Part two finishes with the midpoint in which another vital piece of the puzzle is revealed that transforms our protagonist from passive to active. In the romance genre an external act where the protagonists show commitment to each other would be displayed, while internal issues would be highlighted that needed overcoming before the relationship can blossom.

 

Part 3

If the character was rather idly in the previous part the third quartile is the time for the hero to kick into high gear. He or she will actively fight the problem or evil the story is dealing with, however without a successful resolution in sight. In fact some of the actions of the protagonist will get him/her only into deeper waters.

At 62% or 5/8 of the novel the second pinch point comes into play. Again it has to be a direct representation of the malicious force in the novel and cannot be an internal reflection of the hero. Something active has to happen. And of course the stakes are higher compared to the first pinch point. Always remember that the drama elates throughout the novel. It never decreases.

802d1fa789bcf2fb2274b40d5ce714dcAround 70 to 75% it appears to be improbable for the protagonist to overcome the antagonist. Everything is going the wrong way; even friends and family can desert the main characters at this point.

In a romance novel an occurrence triggers dismay and the protagonists move away from each other, rather than towards each other. They are convinced that their relationship cannot be successful long-term.

Crisis-Silhouette-Public-Domain

The final and last critical piece of information is provided at 75%. Nothing after that point can be new knowledge. Everything that we see in Part 4 has to be foreshadowed earlier.

That doesn’t mean that hero and reader have to fully comprehend the meaning of the provided information. An example of skillful writing here would be Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2). Harry and his friend Ron go to visit Hermione, who has been petrified and is lying in the hospital wing with a mirror and a piece of paper by her side. Both the mirror and the paper hold all the relevant clues that Harry will need in order to solve the riddle in part 4.

 

Part 4

The resolution. The protagonist finally comes head to head with the antagonist force in the novel. Going into the situation it appears as if there is no way that he/she can win but the hero manages anyhow. Furthermore, in the final part the protagonist transforms into a selfless hero.

For example, in a Romance novel the male protagonist does not only make up and apologizes to the female protagonist but also sets things right with her brother, who had been standing between the two lovers throughout the book due to his addiction. Instead of merely salvaging his relationship with the female protagonist, the male protagonist also helps the brother to reach the decision to check himself into rehab.

Everything that takes place in part four needs to be foreshadowed. In the example above the brother would’ve displayed earlier in the book the awareness that he needs help.

a_couple___silhouette_by_marvelmania-d38vuf0To summarize when paying attention to the development of the plot of a novel, note the following parts: Incitor (20%), First Plot Point (25%), First Pinch Point (37.5%), Midpoint (50%), Second Pinch Point (62%), Crisis (70-75%), Final Plot Point (75%).

The more you become mindful of these beats in other author’s work the more natural it will be for you to insert them in your own story flow in order to get the pacing right and keep your reader interested.