I am excited to post — with permission, of course — an article that Mary Deal has put together with her perspective on foreshadowing. I told her when she sent me the article that I love this particular literary device, and I’m pretty good at spotting it when I read. Because I can spot it so well, when I write my own stories, I try to use it with great subtlety. In fact, I like to sprinkle foreshadowing dust in my books, and then pull the foreshadowed hints together like a bunch of threads at the climax to the story. Read More
Tag Archives: denouement
Prologue, Denouement and Epilogue
First let me quote from the Oxford Dictionary before we discuss usages.
Prologue: 1) A separate introductory part of a play, book or piece of music. 2) An event that leads to another.
Denouement: The final part of a film, play or narration, in which matters are explained or resolved.
Epilogue: A section at the end of a book or play which comments on what has happened.
A Prologue can set up the rest of a story. That is, it can relate a brief occurrence that led to the present action of the story that we then jump into the middle of in Chapter One. Used this way, a prologue becomes a bit of back story, should not take up any more than a few paragraphs, and definitely should not be as long as a full chapter. Too, anything that isn’t foreshadowing for the rest of the story should be cut.
The longer the Prologue, the more it seems the writer is, again, quoting back story when, in reality, back story should be incorporated into the present of the telling. This is done through conversations between characters or brief remembrances of the main character. Providing too much life story in the prologue, keeps the reader bogged down in the past when you really want them immersed in the action of the now that starts with the first word, sentence and paragraph of Chapter One.
Completely opposite of that, the Prologue can also be used to show the outcome of the entire story up front before Chapter One begins. In other words, your story has a problem the main character needs to resolve. The story goes on to show the character resolved those issues and then shows the climax and denouement, which led to the information first presented in the Prologue.
My preference is not to read a book where I know up front that all ends well. I want to feel all the indecision, fright and other emotions that the characters may endure. Then I want the relief of learning how their situation is resolved. If I read up front that their lives went back to normal after something drastic had happened to them, I won’t feel their emotions as I read.
Part of reading is to experience what the characters endure. First reading that everything came out okay seems, in my opinion, to diminish the thrill of suffering with these story people. So what? I ask. I already knew these people would prevail.
The Denouement tells how the characters are affected once the climax of the action is made apparent. If a mystery, the climax happens when the perpetrator is caught or gets his or her comeuppance. You cannot end the story at that point. You must tell how this climactic revelation affected all the other characters. That portion after the climax is the denouement.
The denouement need not be lengthy. It can be a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs. It can also be one or more brief chapters.
In my thriller, River Bones, after the perpetrator is caught and people realize just who the serial killer is, many more additional clues are found to cement his guilt. Too, a few subplots needed to be wrapped up that did not really affect catching the perpetrator, but which followed through and fed into the action of the entire story. That wrap-up, my denouement, took two additional brief exciting chapters. But that wasn’t all….
An Epilogue is best used to show how the story resolution affected the characters after a period of time has passed. Yes, it’s enough to catch a perpetrator and everyone return to their normal lives in the denouement. However, in River Bones, I used an Epilogue to not only wrap up the strongest subplot, but to create a situation where it leaves the story open for a sequel.
Another example might be a romance. After the lovers settle their differences and end up together in the denouement, the Epilogue might be used to show that a year later they parted. What caused them to part must be something already written into the story beforehand. The Epilogue is not a place to introduce new information – ever. Whatever happens in the Epilogue is a result of some action already dealt with in the story.
Between prologue, denouement and epilogue, the denouement is the only part necessary to any story. Think hard about using Prologues and Epilogues and have good reason for doing so.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
Parts of a Story
Parts of a story can be seen as action scenes or major scenes tied together with other action. They can also be seen simply as beginning, middle, and ending.
Tips for writing a story are many and varied. I’ve put together some suggestions that will help you analyze your own story plot. Or you may finally be able to get your story started. You’ll be writing a book before you know it!
These suggestions apply to any stories of any length. The only difference is in genre.
In fiction, you may lead your characters to do whatever the story dictates.
In nonfiction, you will have the usual beginning, middle, and ending, but you cannot manipulate occurrences since they actually happened.
Paying attention to the details given below can help you put your own story together. Other articles on this site will cover many more aspects of building a short story or novel.
The suggestions below apply to plot action and holding a reader’s interest. Building characters, a scene, or settings will be covered in other articles.
Here then, discussing parts of a story, are some valuable tips for writing a story, or for writing a book.
Always, that’s ALWAYS; remember to include the five senses in all parts of a story.
Most always, you will write the story from the point of view of your main character’s five senses. If any other character must say something about the heat that’s about to make them faint, this is a great way to have a person other than the main character contribute to the description of a setting.
If your reader’s five senses are stimulated, you are more likely to immerse that reader in your story.
The very first word or two should grab the reader’s attention.
In books written ages ago, it might have been okay to begin “The weather was temperate. I was feeling good.” Today, this is a waste of eight first words. Today’s readers want action or something to grab their attention to entice them to read further.
One of the most important tips for writing a story is to make sure you realize the value of your very first words. They must grab the reader’s attention.
The beginnings are the most crucial parts of a story.
All the main characters should be revealed early on.
Oftentimes, when writing a book of some length, new characters are introduced late in a story or plot. This seems only a crutch to get out of a dead-end plot situation to get the story moving again. There can be no saviors dropping into a story, only characters interacting together from near the beginning and carrying the plot toward conclusion.
In multi-genre writing, characters might pop up anywhere. Still, in order to make them credible, they must have a reason for being included.
Important characteristics of each character should be exposed.
Not important is a visual run-down of what each character may look like. Most important is to build each character’s personality.
It’s okay to state a few facts about their physical appearances, but it’s best done when describing them in action. If some information doesn’t help the reader visualize the character, or doesn’t apply to action to take place deeper in the story, leave it out.
An example: If a man never ties his shoelaces, only include something like that to emphasize his lackadaisical attitude (that you’ve already established) and if, deeper into the story, it’s what causes him to fall and break his neck. Otherwise, leave it out. Every act, every word, must have a reason for being included in parts of a story.
The main dilemma of the entire story line should be introduced in the first chapter.
Of all the parts of a story, this one is crucial.
The main dilemma can also simply be strongly hinted at as long as it’s immediately and progressively developed as the story moves along. The reader must see the succession of events moving along as it reveals more and more of the dilemma.
I don’t advise stringing the reader along. Let them know the dilemma as soon as possible. Otherwise, the reader may ask, “What’s the point.” They will put your book down and may not pick it up again.
When writing a short story, unlike writing a book, the dilemma must be revealed as soon as possible.
Almost everything in the first chapter should be considered foreshadowing.
All the plot action and character traits are set-up to propel the rest of the story. I have written a great article titled Foreshadowing, which deals with exactly that – better than I can explain here in few words.
Keep in mind that all parts of a story must lead to another, must hint at the next event. A future event should cause the reader to remember something that was said or done a few pages or chapters back.
Give your characters tough situations to face that make the readers wonder how things could possibly be resolved.
Make it seem there is no resolution. The situations are what flesh out the story.
Readers know that most situations get worse before they get better. This should determine exactly where you step into the action of the dilemma. Yes, step into it. Do not try to build the dilemma. You will be building back-story.
Have the situation already happening when your story jumps into it.
If you want to have your characters having a fun picnic in a park, and then a shooter comes along and ruins the day, that’s okay too. Just don’t waste too many words setting up how nice the day turned out to be.
Think of this example as if watching a movie. We see the family having fun in the park. We SEE everything immediately. Ten seconds after the film begins, the shooter comes along. If you think of the scene this way, you will know how quickly you must start the action in your written work. You will know how much to include in the first few sentences and how much to omit.
Thinking of your opening as a movie is good practice for including only that which applies and then getting on with your story.
Back-story is information that helps show why the characters have a dilemma.
Use back-story sparingly. Introduce it in snippets of conversation, or in your characters’ memories. Use it only if it enhances the present action. Too much back-story and the plot will stall instead of plunging your reader head first into the bramble bush.
An open ending of each chapter, known as the proverbial cliffhanger, encourages the reader to turn the page.
Another invaluable point in the parts of a story is to try to have cliffhangers at the ends of each chapter. Don’t bring all the action to a close just because the chapter is ending. The reader won’t have a reason to read further.
Leave some events open and questions unanswered. All the while, infuse that chapter with all that it can hold for that particular scene.
When writing a book, you will have many chapters in which you can build cliffhangers as well as great endings when the meanings of these are later revealed.
In various parts of a story, when developing the plot and continuing the action, what the characters experience must be a result of the plot dilemma you originally introduced.
Think about what you created. If you have someone robbing a bank, the plot dictates how these people elude the police. In the end, they are caught. A simple trail to follow only made interesting by complications you add.
Another example is if you begin your story with a seamstress sewing clothes, this could lead anywhere. However, you’ve chosen a topic that may be difficult to develop enough to hold a reader’s immediate interest. Your market for such a story would be limited.
The seamstress would then have to create some gorgeous line of clothing, maybe accidentally, that propels her to fashion design stardom. Maybe she comes in contact with the socially elite, while she, herself, lives in squalor. Think how a story like that might end. Her status is either elevated, or she remains an unknown.
Parts of a story such as this might suggest this seamstress is blind to improving her lot though she wants to. The ending must show the reader how the seamstress overlooks her chance at a better life – and is, perhaps, better for it. Or maybe she finds happiness and reason to stay in her own little world.
Endings make or break your story.
If a reader reads all the way to the ending and the ending falls flat, you will have a greatly disappointed would-be fan. That reader will not suggest her friends read the book. In fact, she may never buy another of your books.
The ending must follow the action. Only one ending would be apropos for any story, with rare exceptions.
The parts of a story must come together so that, with the climax and denouement, the reader feels a degree of satisfaction at having shared the characters lives.
Many stories have more than one ending.
More than one ending would be where the plot contains one or more subplots that, while carrying the main plot, are also nearly stories unto themselves. See my article Forensic Evidence in Plots. In the case of strong subplots, you would then have the main story ending, along with a wrap up of one or more subplots.
Ideally the subplots should wrap up before the main ending. That way, the wrap up of the subplots feed into the climax of the main story line.
When crafting the climax of any story, the actions of the characters will dictate the ending.
You’ve heard the saying “Let the story write itself,” haven’t you? Your story will write itself.
Don’t be concerned about the ending till you’ve arrived at the ending. Allow your characters to perform, to achieve greatness in their endeavors or their dastardly deeds. When you finally arrive at the ending, the characters’ actions will dictate the ending.
Then, as I always say, There is always an exception to every rule.
When I wrote my Egyptian novel, The Ka, I had the ending before I began. I also had many other scenes and knew how the story would flow. But I had to massage and manipulate the story line to arrive at the ending I could not change.
The denouement is the lesson learned after the climax has been realized.
Either or both the character and reader understand the result of the action that occurred in all the parts of a story.
For example, let’s say your character bumbles around doing bad things to people. Then he is caught in a situation where he needs help and things look pretty bleak because no one wants to help him. But someone steps forward, sees the good in the kid, and gives him a chance to turn his life around.
The climax to all this would be the kid getting help in the eleventh hour. The denouement would be the realization the kid has about how his actions hurt people and almost ruined his chance for getting help for himself. The kid’s life does a turn around and he now teaches other kids about good and evil.
The denouement is his self-realization, plus what the reader gets from it also.
Parts of a story can be developed on their own.
Often times, my mind is overflowing with the action of a scene that I write the scene without anything leading to it. Later, I go back and bring threads forward into the new action.
As long as you tie the scenes together in a cohesive manner, nothing says you can’t write the parts of a story that come into your mind in a rush. Write it! Catch that spark of creativity as it happens.
Tips for writing a story, as outlined above, are meant to help you understand the creative steps along the way to writing a book or short story; steps a writer must utilize in the beginnings, middles and endings of stories.
The parts of a story are scenes of action. Tie them together. Make one action cause another, and write it one page at a time.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
Novella to Novel
How I produced my first full length book.
Writing a novella follows the same general guidelines as for writing the long short story or novel.
For quite a while, I wrote and published short stories, poetry, and other brief prose. Many of the pieces received critiques in a number of Internet workshops. I kicked around a lot of ideas for writing longer stories, maybe a novel.
My thoughts were that since I practiced multi-genre writing, surely I could produce a novel. After all, I maintained a long, long list of tips for writing a story.
When some of us in an online workshop decided to experiment with Interior Monologue, the idea of a person caught alone in a rip current gave me an Aha! experience. It was, after all, fresh in my mind because I had just survived being caught in a rip current at Ke`e Beach on the North Shore of Kauai.
I was alone in the water with my thoughts while the current threatened to pull me toward the North Equatorial Current!
I would write my own interior monologue, my self-speak, and fictionalize it to suit the heroine’s predicament when she thought she could be a goner. What a spectacular story that would make! Thus, Caught in a Rip was born.
Again, I entertained the idea that writing a book couldn’t be much different than writing a long short story. Who was I kidding?
After I posted the novella of my experience, translated to my character’s plight, for review and critique in the online writing workshop, the story and my writing received a rating of 10 from each and every reader.
Still, I was faced with the fact that big publishing houses were not accepting novellas for publication. Nor is a single novella the same as writing a book.
At that moment, having written only a novella, writing a book seemed a daunting task.
Getting this novella completed was fun.
Then I hit on the idea of writing another of my short stories into a second novella. For the moment, writing a book slipped from my mind.
I had been on a ketch in the Caribbean that almost sank in a sea storm. Banishing the thought that my long stories wouldn’t be published, Child of a Storm was written next.
Then, returning to the idea of writing a novel, I was in a quandary as to how these stories helped with writing a book. These two novellas still weren’t long enough when combined to call them a novel.
Simply, I had two novellas, as different in content as any multi-genre writing.
Publishers didn’t want to see either, separately or together, and two weren’t long enough to break apart into a trilogy. Not that publishers accepted trilogies at the time either.
In pondering the idea of writing a book, I needed to pull these stories together. Their similarities were that both dealt with living in the tropics, one story in the Caribbean, one in Hawaii.
Both were written from my own life-threatening episodes at sea.
The stories being related gave me another Aha! experience.
I conjured the idea of interrelating the two separate main characters, giving each of them their own story but having the women as good friends. The only thing left to do was bring them together in writing a third story, completing the trilogy.
This was bending the rules of the standard format for writing a book, but, well… perhaps not.
I wrote the third story, Hurricane Secret, loosely at first. I knew that I had to have threads from each story intertwined in the others. That is the beauty of writing fiction.
I then went back through each story and wrote in some threads that I left dangling. In writing jargon, that means I did not totally wrap up the action at the ends of each novella, even though each story can stand alone. Instead, I left questions unanswered. After all, readers would know more intrigue was to come because there was much more of the book to read.
Another important element was that I began the time period of Child of a Storm much earlier and had the two women meet in the first story. Then the timeline in each story progressed forward, as did the ages of the characters.
Caught in a Rip takes place in a much later time period, perhaps two decades later.
In the third story, Hurricane Secret, all the threads have been woven toward the climax and denouement. And yet, each story stands alone and could be published alone, but I finally had a book-length work.
For over a year, I submitted the complete package to agents, seeking representation. I received only rejections. If the agents commented at all, most stated that this was not the kind of project their agency represented, in spite of saying my query letter and other documents were well-written and the stories sounded exciting. Without being told, I felt they were rejecting novellas in particular.
During the search for an agent that lasted about a year and a half, I began to research my Egyptian novel, The Ka. My first completed novel was finished. I now felt I could write one story into a full book.
After a string of rejections longer than my arm, I decided to publish The Tropics using print-on-demand.
Though I was extremely pleased with the outcome of The Tropics, when I thought about writing The Ka, an entire novel composed of one story, I knew then that I would really be writing a book.
Still, it doesn’t matter which format you choose when writing a book. All of it amounts to experience. In order to learn, you must get the words out, no matter what you may write.
The most widely known procedure in writing a book is to produce one continuous story, beginning, middle and ending. But, as in everything, there are deviations.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
Outlining a Story
Writing a novel, even a short story, and keeping details and action in some semblance of order can be a daunting task. A loose outline, even a simple list of occurrences, can be the best aid to keep you writing on track.
I began using a structured outline but have since been able to keep facts in order by making a running list of plot points and anything else I need to remember.
We all remember learning about outlines in school. To me, they were rigid with a lot of requirements and I spent more time trying to remember how to title the information than getting the data on paper.
As a writer, you will have had more experience with keeping an accumulation of facts in your mind as you pound the keys. Or maybe you’ve gotten lost in all the twists and turns of your story. Here’s some easy help. For example, let’s say your story is about a woman searching for her abducted daughter.
Keep in mind that all stories need the following:
Here’s a simple outline to keep the plot on track. My notes in parenthesis are for your understanding and need not appear in your outline unless they further help you.
Title at the Top
1-Abi’s daughter was abducted (told in present time, with some back story (SETUP)
2-Abi learns of a young woman her daughter’s age on Death Row (Rising Action)
a-The inmate faces lethal injection for a crime she didn’t commit
3-Twenty-three years have passed but similarities exist between the inmate and Abi’s daughter
a-Abi begins an intense investigation, including DNA, to learn if the inmate is her daughter
b-Abi pays to restore the sight of the only eye witness.
4-While Abi investigates; her home is torched, as is the sole witness’s home (Reversals)
a-With restored sight, the sole witness skips town.
b-Abi discovers an undercurrent, one to get the inmate to pay for crimes of others
5-DNA proves the inmate is Abi’s daughter (Recognition)
a-Abi fights to prove the innocence of the inmate
6-The case goes all the way down to the needle (Climax)
a-The lethal injection chamber
7-How the story ends after all the action plays out; how the characters’ lives are affected by the climax. (Denouement)
For the sake of this newspaper column, everything begins on the left margin. When you make your list, you can indent the a and b lines to set them off to detect them easily.
It’s as simple as that. The Setup should be brief, intense so the reader is drawn into the plot and can’t leave. The bulk of your story will be contained in Rising Action, Reversals and Recognition. The Climax should be unexpected, brief and stunning, or stinging. The Denouement is a wrap up and should never be more than one or two very short chapters. It can also be handled with anything from a few lines to a paragraph or two.
As you work with your outline, you can lengthen any area. I make more notes for the middle portions because that comprises the bulk of the story.
Another form of outlining: Many people prefer to put each new scene on a 3×5 card and write each scene before going on to the next. I prefer to have a running outline which I sometimes print out so I can see the whole story at a glance.
By the way, the story I’ve just outlined is from my latest thriller, “Down to the Needle.” If you read it, you will see most of the book is NOT included in the outline. Outlines are merely the main plot points but can be as detailed or as simple as you can work with. My outline here is simple. The story itself has so many twists and turns that could only happen by not tightly structuring the creativity of my muse. Read More
Our culture and habits are deeply engrained. When we writers create characters, we usually know the basics of their personalities before we begin to write. We have a feel for the type of person that would fit the plot. In fleshing out those who people our stories, we give them jobs, family, myriad habits, and quirks. We assign stations in life, perhaps borrowed from people we know, or from history itself. We are careful to make them interesting and, hopefully, memorable. Therein lays one of the pitfalls that can dull the excitement of a plot instead of helping it to sing. I found a perfect example of this in my own writing. Read More