Module Seven: The Novel

Module Seven: The Novel

 

You are now ready to begin writing. Although you may have been impatient to reach this stage, the preparation was invaluable. As you write, note the following:

 

Balance of pace and intensity.

  • Variety is stimulating and holds the readers’ interest. Alternate between use of “nail biting” dramas and secure, reassuring situations. No-one in the story must be expected to perform super-human tasks, nor must anyone be expected to undergo physical or mental stress for too long a period of time. Give the character and the reader a rest occasionally.
  • To allow the reader to picture the scene, incorporate descriptive passages. These will vary in length according to the skill of the writer. Description is discussed more fully in lesson eight.
  • Vary the length of sentences.
  • Before you write a chapter, note the date (or time) of each event. Are these consistent with each other and the rest of the novel?

 

Viewpoint – What it is.

To enable the reader to develop a sympathy with the main character(s), they must be allowed to experience events through that (those) character(s). What the character sees, hears, thinks, smells, decides, dreams and hopes for etc. must be described as the character experiences it. When the story is told from another character’s viewpoint, it must be quite clear what is happening. To tell the story convincingly, the author must actually be that person, visualise what they would be visualising and think what they would think.

Consider the following two passages: one is clearer and more gripping than the other.

 

Extract from “Sundog” by Isobel Mason (with mixed viewpoint)

Later that evening, Richard returned from work. He was weary and could see Ann had something on her mind. He sat in his usual chair and began to read a magazine. Ann was annoyed by his action and decided to interrupt him.

‘I was talking to Mrs Battey this morning,’ she said, ‘and she wouldn’t mind if we had a dog.’

‘It’s nothing to do with her,’ objected Richard, irritated that the subject had not been forgotten.

‘Oh, come on Richard, she’d be affected too. She cleans for us,’ Ann said, thinking she might persuade him.

Wondering how he could avoid the issue, he paused in his reading and placed the magazine back onto the table.

‘So it would be all right by you?’

‘No, I never said that. I well . . .’

‘But you meant it, didn’t you?’ Ann interjected, getting up and putting her arms around his shoulders, knowing how to convince him.

Richard was confused by her mood, trying to avoid her relapsing into a depression. He softened and held her hands. ‘I don’t like the mess dogs bring into the house. There’ll be a lot of mud outside, we’ll find it difficult ourselves, never mind a dog paddling about in it. Look, when the building’s finished, we’ll go out and choose a dog together, one that we both like rather than rushing into it now.’

Ann was infuriated by his response.

 

Extract from “Sundog” by Isobel Mason (with consistent viewpoint)

Later that evening, Richard returned from work, sat in his usual chair and began to read a magazine. He was interrupted by Ann.

‘I was talking to Mrs Battey this morning,’ she said, ‘and she wouldn’t mind if we had a dog.’

‘It’s nothing to do with her,’ objected Richard, irritated that the subject had not been forgotten.

‘Oh, come on Richard, she’d be affected too. She cleans for us.’

He paused in his reading and placed the magazine back onto the table.

‘So it would be all right by you?’

‘No, I never said that. I well . . .’

‘But you meant it, didn’t you?’ Ann interjected, getting up and putting her arms around his shoulders, hugging him to her.

Richard was confused by her mood, trying to avoid her relapsing into a depression. He softened and held her hands. ‘I don’t like the mess dogs bring into the house. There’ll be a lot of mud outside, we’ll find it difficult ourselves, never mind a dog paddling about in it. Look, when the building’s finished, we’ll go out and choose a dog together, one that we both like rather than rushing into it now.’

He could see that Ann was infuriated by his response.

 

The following points should be noted:

  • Consistency of viewpoint is one of the most important rules in fiction. If a writer constantly changes viewpoint, the work will appear amateurish and inconsequential and the reader will become bored. The reader cannot constantly change their sympathies from one character to the other. It is like asking them to understand everyone at once.
  • However, like all rules, this one can sometimes be broken to good effect. For example, if a writer wanted to depict a chaotic scene, perhaps a conversation in a family, where all the children are clamouring for attention, the viewpoint could be changed from one to the other. Or, it could be changed to achieve a dramatic interchange between two characters, engaged in a speedy or urgent activity. In any event, the rule should be broken consciously and to good effect
  • Always mark the change of viewpoint by a chapter ending, spaces or three bullets (e.g. * * *).

 

Writing from first-hand experience.

  • Some claim that a writer must have been in the exact situation being described in order to achieve authenticity in their writing. Others do copious research and write from their findings. Some writers produce their best work through research. Essentially, this is a matter of personal preference.
  • It is most important that the writer has experienced the emotion being portrayed. For example, if the main character is excluded from their natural circle of friends or relatives, the writer has to have experienced the pain of exclusion.

 

Titles and how to create them:

Some find good titles more easily than others. A title should:

  1. Contain the essence of the plot but not too obviously
  2. Arrest and intrigue
  3. Direct the reader to the nub of your story.

 

Q.1 Bearing in mind the plot, chose a few suitable titles for your novel.

 

Q.2 With the above points in mind, write the first two chapters.