Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dissecting A Novel

In an effort to better understand novel structure, I've sat down and began dissecting a novel. I've read for years that this is a good process to help a new writer get a feel for writing their own but have continued to put it off.

I recently read Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, which is a great book for any writer. He describes a method of dissecting a novel to learn plotting. So, before I begin my revision on my NaNo Novel, I decided to give it a shot.

He suggests doing six different novels. I have my novels chosen and have begun my first. Will I do the other five? It depends on what I learn from the process.

Here's what you do: You read the book for pleasure, and then you take index cards and map out each scene. For each scene, you write the setting, point-of-view character, a two-line scene summary, and scene type. You also include thoughts on the ending. Does it make you want to read on? Why or why not?

Now that you have your cards complete, you can divide them into the three-act structure. You can identify your point of no return. You have a better view of the book as a whole broke down into sections.

I'll let you know what I learn.

Has anyone else ever done this? Would you like to share your methods of dissecting a novel?


SandyDaley said...

Sounds like an interesting idea. Keep up posted as how it goes.

Terry W. Ervin II said...

Let me know how it goes.

That could end up being an awful lot of index cards--for each scene in six novels, but if it works out helping an author learn structure, it's worth it.

I don't know if this will make a difference, but you could always, for example, incorporate color coding (different colors of index cards) the help better identify, say, a certain characters's POV used (if it switches).

Anonymous said...

Sandy- I will keep you posted.

Terry, yes it should be alot of index cards. I'm hoping I can learn what I need to know from the one novel. Also, I thought about the different colors, but at the moment am using the plain white ones.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Hi Cher. Check out Alexandra Sokoloff's site. She does story structure exercises on movies that are very helpful in structuring your novel. I've been participating in the practise for years and find it helpful especially when I'm stuck.

Another really good book is Stein on Writing.

Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for sending me this site. There's a wealth of information there.

I'll also check out the book. It is one I don't have.

Merry Christmas

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