5 Elements of a Novel

I love diagrams – perhaps this stems from twenty years as a consultant. Or perhaps it’s the pleasing symmetry of creating a picture that encapsulates a concept or idea. Whichever it is, I have a PowerPoint file containing over 300 diagrams that I’ve built over the years of this blog to explore the craft of writing and the writing or reading of historical fiction. That’s a lot of diagrams.

[As an aside, I used to be able to speak to an audience for thirty minutes with 5 or 6 PowerPoint slides.]

I’ve chosen to share this one today because I’m at the stage of my latest manuscript where it’s a useful reminder – a checklist of the critical elements that make a good story.

I used a simplified version of this diagram in a post explaining Elizabeth George’s book on the craft of writing which she titled ‘Write Away‘.

Now that I look at this diagram again in light of the manuscript – a contemporary thriller – I think I need to explore a few notions further such as internal landscape and voice. Internal landscape deals with a characters emotions, psyche, soul, wants, needs, reflections, speculations, obsessions – those aspects that make a character rich and multi-dimensional and fully real.

I also need to make sure that my ‘dramatic dominoes’, which are part of plot, are gripping enough in the last third of the story.

Always a little more work to do – even when you think you’re at the end.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

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2 Responses

  1. As a “stream of consciousness” writer, I am in awe of any writer/author who can build a story with all these diagramatically interlocking parts . I still contend with my old English professor’s chiding critique of my run-on sentences!
    I can think of a story, a character, a fully framed novel in a split second of clarity. Amazing. But then try to re-capture that clarity of the moment? Ahhh. There’s the rub.

    1. Hi Gerry – I’m not that kind of planner for my novels! However, I found this diagram and others useful as I go through the editing stage or as I reflect on what is or what is not working during the writing process. More of a check than a planning tool! However, I’m not stream of consciousness like you are – I definitely need some structure before I begin the chapter by chapter process of writing. Hope all is well!

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