Plotting & Pulse

The Bestseller Code (which I’m treating as my bible for NaNoWriMo 2016) illustrates the importance of pulse in a graph that shows the highs and lows of the novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. Whatever your views on the book itself, when you look at the graph, you can see why it’s a page-turner. The graph shows that as well as the key turning points in the novel, the smaller emotional twists and turns are too frequent to count. The same is true for The Da Vinci Code. These novels have a page-turning heartbeat.

I’m going to try and replicate this in my book. I think the simplest way to do this will be to have multiple scenes and each scene to end in some form of emotional high or low. It may be a cliffhanger, it may be a reconciliation, but whatever it is, it will beg the question “What happens next?”

Won’t such a furious pace be almost farcical? I don’t know – I’ll have to wait and see how this turns out… But in the meantime, to give the reader some breathing space I’ll integrate snapshots of everyday life into the scenes, to slow down the pace between cliffhangers. And if there is too much pace when I read it through at the end of November, I can easily add some everyday stuff in and remove a couple of cliffhangers.

Between the frenetic heartbeat of highs and lows, there are major turning points in bestselling novels. These are particularly high highs or particularly low lows. These are key elements of the darling of every creative writing class – the three act structure. It is somewhat of a relief to see this referenced in The Bestseller Code, as it validates a commonly held belief – the three act structure works.

The three act structure divides a book into three parts. The first (approx 25% -33% of the novel) sets up the scene and the characters and introduces the burning platform, or the reason the character needs to fight to survive. It gives the character drive throughout the book. The second act (approx 33%- 50%) escalates the conflict and puts yet more hurdles in the protagonist’s way. There is a turning point after the first act and a turning point after the second act. The third and final act is the climax of the novel and resolves the conflict.

I will plan my novel around this structure, with two major turning points, the first 25-33% of the way through and the second 66-75% of the way through.