Building a Novel

by Stephen Nelson

Some people who read novels might think, “I can do that.” I have always loved to write. I was asked at a retirement course, “What do you want to do when you retire?” My immediate reply was, “Write a novel.” Those in the class who didn’t know me, laughed, but the people who knew me well, smiled in approval. The novel(s) hasn’t/haven’t been completed, but the ideas are written down. I admire friends who are authours, published or unpublished (for now). I applaud them all.

I have been using a house as a symbol for the parts of novel. 


I consider the foundation as the research required before or during the writing process. I research as much as possible about a subject or I try to do that, before I begin writing. If something written will affect the plot, it needs research.


I put each character into a different room. The more characters in the novel means a bigger house. A character sketch for each character belongs in their rooms. The main characters have larger, more detailed rooms and the secondary and minor characters have smaller rooms to live in. If a secondary or minor character develops into a main character, they would move to a better room and that main character moves into a smaller room or a new room is added to accommodate the minor character which becomes a new main character. A character creating conflict can result in permanent or temporary expulsion from the house to live in the proverbial doghouse or move away. Characters that are killed off or die of natural causes leave the house. 


Novels are written with one or multiple points of view. The windows allow the reader to see or listen to a character describing what is happening in the plot. Authours usually write chapters from a character(s)’ point of view.

Everyone, no matter how perfect they consider themselves to be have character flaws. I like to use that as a cracked window. The larger the crack in the window or even if it is a broken window, the more severe is the character flaw. 


In the broad sense of the word, I think world building, whether it’s detailed or sparse can be represented by landscaping. The world as the characters know it needs explanation if the novel is set in an historical period, present, or in the future.


A flower or vegetable garden has many stages before a flower or vegetable is ready to be picked.

I use it to express what tense is used to write the novel.

A sprouting or flowering garden represents the present tense.

Neglected dead flowers and rotting or spoiled vegetables can represent the past tense.

The future tense is garden soil as the garden waits to be planted and the growth of plants and vegetables. 


The smoke coming out of the chimney is the authour’s creativity which includes the novel’s concept, research, writing, revising and editing and promotion of the finished product. 


The sidewalk to the house is the invitation to the reader to pick up the book, buy it and read it based on the book cover, title, author’s name, genre and blurb.


This analogy works for me. I hope it helps others.

© Stephen Nelson 2020