First, novels typically consist of three main parts: Beginning, Middle, and End. Between each section you have two more major components: the Inciting Incidents. I’ll refer to a few different movies to help demonstrate: The Lord of the Rings, Penelope, and The A-Team (trying to cover all my genres here).
Beginning: This is your set-up. It’s where you introduce the setting, your characters, and your characters’ main goals (tell the reader what the story will be about).
1st Inciting Incident: Decision time – once this decision is made, there’s no turning back. It’s when Frodo agrees to take the ring to Mordor, or when Penelope runs away from home, or when the A-Team decides to go into Baghdad and steal the plates. In each situation, once the characters make this decision they can’t change their minds – they must go to the end.
Middle: This is the bulk of your story. Throughout the middle you’ll introduce new characters, up the stakes, increase the suspense, and do everything in your power to get in your main characters’ ways.
2nd Inciting Incident: Decision time – once again, your characters are at a fork in the road. They can continue on the journey, or quit. When Sam rescues Frodo, they continue on, even after Gollum betrayed them and the orcs captured Frodo; they must keep going. Penelope decides to find Max/Johnny and goes to the Halloween party. The A-Team decides to trick and capture Lynch.
End: The resolution – the goal is attained! Frodo wakes up with the elves and all of his friends after the ring is destroyed. Johnny recognizes Penelope and they kiss. The A-Team exposes Lynch’s evil plot and saves the day.
These are the main components of your story. Next time we’ll look at what we need in a beginning and how to make it work. For now – think of your favorite story (be it a novel or movie). Can you identify all five sections?