This past semester, I took a college course entitled Broadcast Writing and Production. Although its focus was on writing for news, television, and the screen, many of the topics touched upon are relevant to creative writing and, in particular, the writing of novels.
Every novel has structure. Whether this is pre-planned in outline form by the author or arisen out of revision work and "pantsing" the story, the structure is there. Being aware of a three-act structure beforehand can make writing a whole lot easier. The following structure is derived from a movie's three-act structure, but can (and should) be used as a guideline in novels, as well:
1. Establishing scene: the first scene of a story is pivotal. It needs to include a--
2. Narrative hook: something that draws the reader in right away, whether it be dialogue, action, or interesting details.
3. Introduction of protagonist: the reader should meet the main character(s) ASAP, as he/she/they should drive the story.
4. Introduction of antagonist: who or what is the protagonist up against? This should arise ASAP, too.
5. Introduction of problem: if a story has no conflict, then it is not a story. A conflict should exist from the beginning, though the protagonist may not be immediately aware of it.
6. Complication leads protagonist to confront problem and take on antagonist
1. Aftermath of complication: The protag may defeat the antag, but it is not a complete victory.
2. Back-story for action: This is when it is best to bring character histories into play, through the action and complications that arise in the story.
3. B-storyline(s) developed: Romantic and other sub-plots of the story come into play.
4. Antagonist developed: The reader learns more about the antagonist's back-story. Evil plotting may ensue.
5. Another complication overcomes protagonist who seems defeated by problem and antagonist
1. Preparation for climax: The protag begins to realize the weaknesses of the antag, heading towards a way of defeating the antag and the problem.
2. Resolution of sub-plots: Tie-up all loose ends!
3. Climax: Make it epic.