e-book How to Write a Novel: Beginnings, Middles and Ends

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This number varies depending on genre and the length of your story. You want the story to appear organic and not simply a series of events contrived by an author. Read stories similar to your own to see how much of a rollercoaster the reader expects and then meet those expectations.

Elements of Fiction Writing - Beginnings, Middles and Ends

Another mistake to watch for is too many twists of a certain type. If your first twist is an case of mistaken identity, you shouldn't repeat that pattern unless you're writing comedy. Related to this concept is the timing of the twists. If the first twist happens as soon as the investigator finds a potential witness, future twists should appear at different plot points. Surprise the reader with your surprises. Subplots In the example where the investigator discovers a possible witness is in fact sought for a previous crime, this secondary story is a subplot if you keep weaving it back in.

The subplot can be a reflection of the main action. A story focused on someone becoming wealthy may contain a subplot with the same arc where subtle differences prove some point. A subplot can be the inverse of the main action. In the same story, the subplot could involve someone losing everything.

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A subplot can be used to prepare the reader. If the protagonist seems indecisive, a subplot where the person is decisive allows the reader to accept when the protagonist finally shifts into gear. A subplot can be used to expose character. What is the significance of the similarities and differences in how an investigator question suspects in two different crimes? How does age, gender, or race of various suspects come into play? Words of caution: Don't allow the subplot to overshadow the main action. The subplot has to be interesting but not too interesting. The subplot must be memorable enough that the reader is not confused when it reappears.

At the same time, the subplot should not be the only thing the reader later remembers. Chose your points of entry carefully. You don't want the reader to be left frustrated every time you pull away from the main story. The subplot should seem a natural extension of your plot or the reader will start skipping ahead.

Bringing It to an End Deciding where to stop can often prove just as difficult a decision as knowing where to start. Most mysteries have three distinct possible points of exit: the point of inevitability when the ending seems certain, the moment just after resolution, and the return to normalcy.

Some sub-genres will help you determine which exit is best. Noir stories often end in the midst of failure. Classic stories of detection often end after the detective delivers the solution. Other detective stories wait until the surviving characters can once again look forward. The Point of Inevitability Imagine a police detective producing the button that the husband lost the day his wife disappeared and then informing him that the button was discovered in his wife's stomach during the autopsy. The conclusion seems obvious that wife was trying to implicate her husband.

It also seems obvious that the detective will arrest the husband. It also seems obvious that the husband will eventually stand trial for the crime and some verdict will be reached. If there are no major surprises planned during these events, don't make your reader slog through them. End at the moment of dramatic climax. It goes without saying that if it goes without saying, don't say it.

One thing to watch for with this type of ending is the conclusion that seems inevitable only to the writer.

3 Phases of Writing a Novel – Beginnings, Middles, and Ends | Rita Kuehn

Perhaps the button was found in the wife's car and the writer assumes that this proves the husband used the car to transport his dead wife. Ending at this point is a problem when the average reader attaches no such significance to the button's location. Just After Resolution Once a crime is completed or a solution to a crime presented, the questions raised by the story have been answered.

The reader's expectations have been satisfied and now is the time to exit before the writer becomes the guest who doesn't know when to leave. It goes without saying One thing to watch for with this type of ending is a lack of emotional closure. If the killer is unmasked, arrested, and then that's it, the reader can be left in a state of heightened emotion: tension, worry, or outrage.

There needs to be some period no more than a paragraph in a short story or a page in a novel when the reader is allowed to flush emotions raised by the story. Return to Normalcy Some stories are not complete until the survivors have time to pick up the pieces and assimilate what has occurred. While classic puzzle mysteries took place in an emotional vacuum, many writers wish to explore the residual damage of crimes that are anything but victimless.

Variations include the detective who applies solving the crime to some outstanding personal problem and responses to the eventual legal outcome. One thing to watch for in this type of ending is knowing when to exit gracefully. Whatever moment is chosen must feel like the appropriate time to end. The reader must not be allowed to wonder either why the story went on so long after the climax was reached or why the story stops here in particular.

Arcs, Circles and Lines Typically, the structure of mystery stories resembles an arc.

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A question is raised. Efforts to solve the question result in heightened tensions. Finally, the question is answered and equilibrium is restored.


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Oftentimes, a story can be shaped into a circle with an ending which brings one back to the beginning. This can be done with setting, dialogue, or cast of characters.

False beginnings

A circular story leaves the reader with the impression that the writer had complete mastery over the material. Stories may also create a sense of merely being a single segment of a never-ending line. While an amateur detective may solve the one crime with a personal impact, no such exclusivity applies to the professional detective for whom finding a solution only makes room for the next mystery. Unanswered Questions It is not uncommon for a solution to raise more questions than it answers. Even if we know who committed the crime, how, and why, knowing those things can make us re-examine the story.

If the partner is proved the killer and we suspected the wife because she lied, we now want to know why she lied. How thoroughly do you need to explain each discrepancy? This depends on size and weight. Was the lie little or big? Did the lie raise questions or cause the reader to assume guilt? Does the lie, in retrospect, seem artificial? Misdirection is somewhat a misnomer because those logical missteps must not simply exist for the convenience of the writer.

If the reader is expected to misunderstand the action of the character, the reader should eventually see that the action made sense for reasons not apparent at the time. If the wife lied about where she was at the time of the murder, she can be lying because she was with a lover and feared that admitting the truth would only give her a greater motive for the crime. In this instance, once the reader learns the truth, pieces should fall into place and missed clues recognized for what they were.

As the writer, you don't have the last word. The reader forms a final opinion only after completing your mystery.

That's when the reader decides whether to seek or avoid your future work. Make sure it's the former. Study published openings in the sub-genre you're writing, in other sub-genres of mystery, and even in non-mysteries.

21 Literary Quotes On Beginnings, Middles, And Endings

Note which ones feel the most compelling. Find Out More Rogers This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission. Stephen D. In this post from Writers Write, your one-stop writing resource, we share our favourite literary quotes on beginnings, middles, and endings. I hope you enjoy them. Happy reading and writing! Byatt Our story has three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Delicious Ambiguity. Do you know what I mean? There is so much to lose. The opposite of the happy ending is actually the unsatisfying ending. But people have always been dimly aware of the problem with the start of things.


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They wonder how the snowplough driver gets to work, or how the makers of dictionaries look up the spelling of words. All stories end like that.

It is about muddling through the middle.