Narrative Structures – Series Writing Your Novel

In November, thousands of writers gather to write a novel. This is the goal of NaNoWriMo, a writing contest that challenges writers to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. With this in mind, Livr(a) prepared four posts with special tips for writing novels. Today we will talk about narrative structure.

Have you thought about the advantages of following a narrative structure when creating your novel? For new authors, mainly, doing this can be the difference between being able to write or not a story. And even if you are an experienced writer, knowing narrative structures can be a way to innovate them and make something completely new for your audience. Either way, narrative structures are very good strategies — and will help the process of writing a novel much easier. Today we will talk about three major narrative structures.

The hero’s journey. This narrative structure is the one we find in stories like The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and even superhero movies. It got this name from Joseph Campbell, and nowadays you can find many book adaptations on it. Pretty much every storyline can be adapted into the hero’s journey cycle. Because it is not only about killing dragons and going on a journey — it is about growing up as a person as well.

The Hero’s journey is actually very simple, and you can complicate it as much as you want it. The hero gets a call to adventure — which can be either a wizard showing up on your door or a protagonist deciding to do something that they thought completely crazy before. Withing this journey, your hero will be transformed, will go through challenges, and even face danger. Usually, the hero returns by the end of the book, but never the same way they were before. They change in the process.

Narrative Structures - Series Writing Your Novel

The three-act story. This is probably the most common narrative structure used nowadays. The major difference from the hero’s journey is that the three-act story is plot-driven, and characters will be forced to change because of things happening in the story. The conflicts can all be happening inside the character, but this is less common. This narrative is not cyclical as the hero’s journey and usually will present an obstacle after obstacle, and a climax before the end of the novel. Romance novels usually follow this structure, characters meet in the beginning, face obstacles, disaster happens — they break up or something like that — and then it comes resolution.

Snowball Effect. This is a less structured narrative strategy, but it can be fun and easy to write. You can, by the way, embed the snowball effect into a hero’s journey or a three-act story. The premise is very simple — your character usually starts the narrative with a problem. This can be anything really, from a missing person to a bad grade in a test. Everything your character does to try to solve this problem, things get worse. And they will only get worse and worse before they get better (if that is what you actually want, a “happy” ending). Usually, in a snowball effect narrative structure, there is no “happy” ending, because things got so complicated, there is no way things will ever get back to normal. Your character will have to find ways to adapt to a new reality.

Narrative Structures - Series Writing Your Novel

Hey, NaNoWriMo is getting to an end and it’s time to finish this novel! Let’s do it!

See too: Series Writing Your Novel: Planning your novel