Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Three Elements Every Novel Needs

As many of you are diving into #NaNoWriMo there are a few important elements to your novel that you need to keep in mind.  If you're missing one of them, you don't have a story. Figuring them out early on will help you focus and keep your story on track. But don't worry, if you didn't do an outline for NaNo, just keeping these in mind will help. I'll share bits of one of my latest novels for an example.

Problem: Invaders are doubling their efforts to take over my main character's homeland. At the same time she is struggling to understand a power that is nothing like it should be, and is a disappointment to her parents. This shows both the inner problems she is struggling with and the exterior one she is forced to deal with going on around her.

Stakes: Invaders are not only driving her people from their land and taking over, they are wiping out her kind because they believe they are evil. If she can't figure out her errant power and discover a way to control it and use it, she may have to fear for not only her family's land, but her life. Again this shows the inner and outer stakes.

Solution: She must find a way to harness her power so she can use it to help her people fight back the invaders. In the solution the two combine, but this isn't always the case.

Once you know these three elements, you know the core of your plot. These are also the three elements that are found in a good one sentence log line. I've found that in knowing these elements, and writing my one sentence log line ahead of time, it helps me hone in on my story from page one and not lose focus on it. How do you make sure your story has the necessary elements? 

These elements are taken from my historical YA fantasy that is due out by Compass Press in early 2013.



  1. Ahhh, sage advice Heather. Problem, stakes, solution. Excellent, thanks!

  2. Heather this is excellent! Those are three elements we all need. Thanks!

  3. I've always had trouble writing those one sentence log lines. This makes it so much easier! Thank you! :)

  4. Linda, thank you. :)

    Lorelei, lol, thanks!

    Karlene, so true!

    Melissa, me too! They can be tough. I'm glad I helped make them easier.

    Em-Musing, you're welcome. :)