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Novel Structure

Chapters

The novel will have 25 chapters of approximately 3,000 words each, which should be about 10 pages per chapter.

Three-Act Structure

The novel will follow the same sort of straightforward three-act structure commonly used for contemporary screenplays.

Act 1: The Introduction

Chapter 1 – Chapter 8 (24,000 words): All the story’s characters are introduced, as well as all the basic situations and conflicts. The introduction should begin with something spectacular, something gripping that serves to drive the entire story. It should end when the complication begins, the complication being the point where all the pieces fall into place to allow, or force, the protagonists to begin their conscious attempt to deal with the situation created here in the introduction.

Act 2: The Complication

Chapter 9 – Chapter 16 (24,000 words): The complication that forms the central conflict of the story is fleshed out. The complication should end when the resolution begins. It should also end with the protagonists at their low point, the darkest part of the story, where the situation is its bleakest and defeat is almost a foregone conclusion.

Act 3: The Resolution

Chapter 17 – Chapter 24 (24,000 words): The protagonists begin their long march toward resolving the complication introduced in act two and solving the dilemma introduced in act one. The world appears arrayed against them. They have little hope of success, but trudge on determinedly, because the alternative is just giving up and giving in to defeat now. One by one, the protagonists face the challenges presented in act two and, against all odds, overcome them, until they are faced with the ultimate conflict between themselves and the story’s antagonists. In spite of their successes in act three, by the time the final conflict is reached, the protagonists should still be on the edge of defeat. The antagonists should always have the upper hand. Also, whatever carefully laid plan the protagonists created should fall apart, forcing the protagonists to improvise wildly to overcome the advantages of the antagonists and their own disadvantages. Each major character in the group of protagonists should have some significant role in the final conflict, even if it is just helping the main protagonist to go up against the main antagonist. If one of the protagonists is going to be killed, it should be now, and in such a way that his sacrifice allows the main character to go on to take down the main antagonist.

Once the main antagonist goes down, that should be the end of the story. By this point, all the other threats should have been neutralized. At least as far as the audience is concerned, the protagonists have won.

Dénouement

Chapter 25 (3,000): The audience should have some interest in what happens to the protagonists after the climax of the story, at such a point when they are getting on with their lives following the epic events through which they have just lived. The protagonists receive their rewards, move on to their next adventures and so on. This may also be the point at which any potential sequel is set up, implying that while the antagonist may have been defeated this time, he may return, or some other threat introduced in the story may prove to be a greater threat in the future.

The resolution may not necessarily be happily ever after. One of the protagonists, for example, may have given up the last best measure of valor for the cause, and the other protagonists may need to deal with that loss; this is especially poignant if the lost comrade was the one least likely to make such a sacrifice.

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