The basic components of a novel, or any other story for that matter, break down into three core components: there is character, setting, and plot. Really, everything else falls under those categories. Figuring out how you want to craft each of these areas is key to answering how to write a novel.
Before diving in, I should say, there is no real template in how to write a novel. There isn’t a magic formula that transforms just anyone into a bestselling novelist. But there are fundamentals, aspects of a story that a writer needs to understand before setting out on the journey of writing a book.
Here are those three core components elaborated on.
How To Write A Novel: Character
Character is just like it sounds. These are the people that make up your storyline, usually broken down into the main categories of the protagonist, their primary antagonist and ancillary side characters that feed into their journey.
The protagonist is another word for “hero”, the character the reader or viewer follows throughout the story. Think of Luke Skywalker from Star Wars as the ultimate protagonist in fiction. Throughout the Star Wars movies, we are following him.
The antagonist, root word ‘antagonize’, is the person (or persons) standing in the protagonist’s way. Again, using Star Wars to illustrate the idea here, Darth Vader could be seen as the embodiment of what antagonizes Luke throughout the story.
Your side characters are, of course, those that help (and hinder) that journey. They help illuminate the journey the character is on. Han Solo may be a fun, swashbuckling character, but he is not a hero. Purely in story terms, he is there to help Luke along.
A first step in learning how to write a novel comes down to understanding the basics of character.
What Is Setting?
The setting is where the story action takes place. If you’re writing science-fiction, your setting is probably another world or a different version of this world. Same as fantasy. Noir mystery is generally set in alleys of a big city.
Answering the question of where your story unfolds can be a lot of fun.
You’ve probably heard the term “world-building” before. If not, the term refers to the part of writing a novel where the writer crafts what the world looks like. If it’s a dystopian future, they decide between environmental, pandemic or zombie apocalypse… or whatever else is out there.
Maybe they come up with something new. Actually, that is the dream scenario. Your setting should, in some way, have a unique spin.
Crafting an effective setting also comes down to putting energy and time into dreaming up a unique setting. One of the key questions to answer here is this: how is my world different and unique?
How To Write A Novel With Plot
For most writers, this is the really fun part. This is where you get to sit down and figure out what happens in the story.
Coming up with a novel plot takes some care. Most professional writers follow something called “The Hero’s Journey” structure, or a three-act structure, while others, mainly screenwriters, use something called Save The Cat.
I could write 10,000 words about novel structure. The key understanding, at least in the beginning stages of novel writing, is that your story needs to follow an organized course of action in order to reach readers. Your audience has read a lot of books… a lot. They know what feels good.
Anything can happen in your book. Your challenge as a writer is to make all that action resonate with your readers.
If you would like to read more on the topic of how to write a book, check out these additional articles.
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