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All stories need to have a beginning, a middle and an end.

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The aim of this session is to help you develop and flesh out your story into the shape of a novel.

Stories have a beginning, middle and end. These different components of a story have different functions and should represent different proportions of your novel. Getting proportion right is crucial. There is a feel or a rhythm to a story. You set it up, you develop it, you resolve it.

Narrative is the interplay between the pleasure principle and the death drive.


Audio From Kim Wilkins – Developing Narrative Shape


Listen or download the audio below for this week’s lesson discussing the importance of plot proportion and narrative structure.

Before you listen to this week’s lesson, don’t forget to download the audio notes below (available in PDF format) so you can take notes.



PDF (right click and ‘Save As’): Audio Notes – Lesson 7 – Developing Narrative Shape



20-30% should constitute the beginning, half should be the middle, 20-30% should be the end

Draw a horizontal line on the page. Mark in the beginning and the end.

Lesson 7 YON Beginning middle end

These ideas rely on there being transition points between beginning, middle, and end.



The first transition point is an indicator that the story is set up and ready to rock.


Romeo and Juliet

–          Meet Romeo, meet Juliet and family

–          Conflict – they’re falling in love

–          Context –set against the backdrop of a gang war.

–          Moment of gear change – She’s a Capulet!


–          Meet Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

–          Witches

–          They’re going to plan a murder

–          Moment of gear change – Duncan’s murder.



The second transition point is an indicator that matters have become so intense as to force an ending either way.


Romeo and Juliet

–          Love affair develops conflict develops some steps to work out one way or the other

–          Moment – where Romeo kills Tybalt – I am fortune’s Fool!

–          It can only end one way.


–          When Macbeth crosses the line and has Macduff and all his family murdered or when he goes to the witches and consciously aligns himself with evil.



What happens in the transition points in your story?

The end of the beginning is usually easier to spot than the end of the middle. Once you know how the book begins and ends and, once you know how it changes gears, the book is easier to write. You then have to come up with scenes that negotiate the distance between those plot points.

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red avatar 5EXERCISE:  Creating Your Plot Skeleton

Narrative shape runs on the psychologically pleasing shape of:

  • Beginning;
  • Middle, and;
  • End

Here is the basic plot skeleton for Kimberley Freeman’s novel Duet.

Lesson 7 YON Beginning middle end

Ellie’s                     Ellie goes                                                               Ellie leaves                       Ellie and

mother’s              to London/                                                              Ivan/                                 Angela

funeral                 Angela runs away                                                   B&B burns                       meet



As you can see, the transitions in both plot and subplot are marked. This is optional.



Lesson 7 YON Beginning middle end exercise

Draw a plot skeleton for your novel. Don’t feel constrained by this: you can change it any time you like. It’s about giving yourself a clear plan for how the story will play out. Draw a line in a document and place markers for each of the following.

  1. Mark in the opening scene.
  2. Mark in the end of the beginning.
  3. Mark in the end of middle scene.
  4. Mark in the closing scene.

Do you have an idea of how long your novel might be? If so, mark in the approximate word counts for each of the sections.Lesson 7 YON

Work out what are the key issues for each of the sections: Beginning, Middle and End. And write four dot points for each to submit with your plot skeleton. This will help you work out what the ‘gear change’ moment will be at the end of each section.

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