I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.
There are four days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.
Day four is all about plotting all the scenes into a three part structure.
Plotting From Aristotle to Vonnegut.
Most novels combine engaging characters and a compelling plot to varying degrees, however some novels are more concerned with how and external conflict is solved. A prime example is a detective novel concerned with a criminal case and its solution. Other novels focus on personal conflict and the relationships between the characters. In this case, the outcome is often a change of attitude, or a new situation in the characters’ lives, not the solution of a specific incident.
I’m more of a character-driven writer than a plotter, because I’m more concerned with how my characters feel about their problems, and the processes they undergo to overcome them.
Nevertheless, I do plot and my plot is also important, it’s just not more important than my characters personal journey of self-discovery.
In this post I’m going to tell you about my plot structure for The Eyre Hall Trilogy.
According to Aristotle’s Poetics, all drama has three basic acts corresponding to the beginning, the middle, and the end of a story.
Three thousand years later, Kurt Vonnegut told us that a good story has a hero who gets into trouble and then out of trouble, everyone loves that story.
Screen writer David Trottier put it like this, ‘Put your hero in a tree, throw rocks at him, and get him out.’
There are few surprises to this basic structure, which has been used over and over again, of course, the fun is in the way it’s presented.
Basically, the first part presents the conflict, the middle complicates it even more, and the end resolves it.
I use this basic 3-part structure in my novels, too.
My three novels have three parts with ten chapters per part.
Each chapter has one scene and some have two related scenes.
Part I includes the setting, main characters and first crisis. I start throwing the rocks as soon as possible. In fact the first crisis happens in chapter I in the three books. I thrust both readers and characters into the situation without warning. This event changes the main character’s life drastically and unexpectedly, to such an extent that Jane literally loses control of her life.
This first crisis is sometimes referred to as enticing incident. It’s what sets the ball rolling.
The rest of the novel is spent dealing with and sorting out this situation, which is partially resolved in books 1 and 2 and finally tied up in part 3.
Part II, also called the midpoint, the central character takes stronger actions, the conflict intensifies, or more conflict appears, and the pace quickens. The main character is at a point of no return. Jane must go forward even if she’s walking straight into another crisis at midpoint, and she knows it. When all seems lost, things take a turn for the better, leading up to part three on an optimistic note.
Part III starts well, but there is another major turning point, which is usually referred to as the crisis or dilemma, occurring towards the end of the novel. It usually involves making a decision aimed at solving the initial problem. It’s often a low point where all seems lost. It is followed by the climax, which is the result of the choices made and leads to the final outcome.
If the novel is part of a trilogy, as my case, there can be no satisfactory solution to the crisis in book I, or there would be no reason for a further book, so it ends on an unsatisfactory ending, sometimes called a cliffhanger if it’s more dramatic, so the reader will want to know what happens in book II.
Book two starts with the same structure all over again, leading to book three, which has a more satisfactory ending. I say satisfactory, because the ends are partially tied up, not because it is totally happy. But more about happy-endings tomorrow.
Each of the thirty chapters include scenes.
These scenes include crisis, turning points, surprises, complications, revelations plot twists and turns, and a climax, and a resolution along the way, otherwise it would be a very boring ride!
Scenes are vital, because they drive the story forward. Each scene must have a purpose within the novel, which will move the plot forward or give us some vital information about the characters or back-story.
I give each of the three parts a name, and each chapter a number and a name, too. It helps me in the planning stage, and it signposts the action for the reader (by the way, these names undergo multiple changes throughout the writing process).
This is the Index of Midsummer at Eyre Hall
Part One: Season of Darkness
Chapter I – Abodes of Horror
Chapter II – The Best of Times
Chapter III – Betrayal
Chapter IV – Winter of Despair
Chapter V – The Worst of Times
Chapter VI – Fugitives
Chapter VII – Nothing Before Us
Chapter VIII – Hell is Empty
Chapter IX – The Age of Foolishness
Chapter X – Wrath
Part Two: Spring of Hope
Chapter XI – Locked out of Heaven
Chapter XII– Everything before Us
Chapter XIII – Epoch of Incredulity
Chapter XIV – Stairway to Heaven
Chapter XV Pride, Greed, and Lust.
Chapter XVI – The Agony and the Ecstasy
Chapter XVII Manderley
Chapter XVIII – In Search of Helen
Chapter XIX The Road to Hell
Chapter XX – First Love
Part Three: Season of Light
Chapter XXI – Persuasion
Chapter XXII – Seashells and Puppies
Chapter XXIII – Present Blessings
Chapter XXIV – Mr. de Winter’s Request
Chapter XXV – Thunder Moon at Eyre Hall
Chapter XXVI – Susan’s Inferno
Chapter XXVII – James Eyre Kirkpatrick
Chapter XXVIII – Max and Helen
Chapter XXIX – The Light and the Darkness
Chapter XXX – Return to Eyre Hall
I didn’t plan it all before I started. I started book one with some characters and a situation and let them speak and act. A third of the way through, I planed it all, loosely. I didn’t consciously use Aristotle’s proposal, although it may have been ingrained in my subconscious due to my literary background as a graduate in literature.
This plotting structure has worked for me with the Eyre Hall Trilogy. It helped me to organize my erratic thoughts into coherent scenes, but I honestly have no idea whether it would work with any other novels I’ll be writing. There are lots more methods for plotting a novel.
How do you plot your novels?