how to structure a novel

How to Structure your novel according to the intensity of the scenes

Although successful, this can be a general and fairly flat overview of how to structure a novel, because it gives the feeling that we have to make each scene more intense than the previous one, which is not only unnecessary, but can sometimes result counterproductive.

Every narrative needs breathing so that the reader can rest. That’s why it’s better to take the previous image only as a general reference, but without forgetting that, in reality, it would have to look like something like this.

how to structure a novel that hooks the reader

That is to say, a narration whose intensity is increasing, but with its own ups and downs from scene to scene.

To achieve this effect, it is important that we know what types of scenes we can resort to when we shape the structure of our stories. Next we will see the most common and important ones:


As a general rule, the exhibition scenes show more than tell and serve to let us know more about the characters and their lives. They are useful to help the reader to better understand the story, but do not forget that this type of scenes slow the narration a lot. Use them well.

Intensity: low

Location: can appear anywhere in the story, although they are more frequent in the first act.


They are scenes that help us shape the universe of fiction, the world in which the characters move. As with exposure scenes, the abuse of setting scenes can result in a boring story. But used sparingly and in due time, they will give depth to your novels.

Intensity: low.
Location: can appear anywhere in the story.

The detonator incident

It is the moment when everything changes for the main character. It is the moment or the moment in which the problem appears, the conflict of history. For example, in a detective novel, the triggering incident is usually murder.

Intensity: high
Location: there is only one detonator incident per story and, sometimes, it does not even appear in the narration, but rather it happens before it starts. Other times, it takes a long time to appear, because it is preceded by a long exposure or presentation.

According to where we place the detonator incident, we will have one type of history or another. It’s what Orson Scott Card calls the MIPA quotient and it helps us determine the exact point where to start and end a story .


As we have said before in the blog, conflict is a fundamental part of any story . In short, a conflict is the struggle or clash between the main characters and the antagonist forces .

Intensity: high
Location: usually presented in the first act and, sometimes, right at the beginning of the story.

Turn points

The turning points are special scenes in which the plot changes or takes a different direction. To define them in a more secular way, these are moments in which, as readers, we are left with our mouths open or very intrigued by what has just happened.

Intensity: high
Location: both the placement and the number of turning points in a story usually depend on the number of events it has. For a classic structure story in three acts (presentation, knot and ending), two or three turning points are normal, although there may be more.

The essential turning point in any structure of three acts is that which makes us go from the first act (presentation) to the second (development). It is also usually placed more or less on the middle of the second act another turning point so that the narrative tension does not decay.

Scenes of increase in tension

It is called like this to the scenes in which the action advances without that the narrative line decays. For example, in a detective novel, we can find that the car that has been following the protagonist reappears and tries to mislead him.

Intensity: medium-high
Location: can appear anywhere in the story.

Decreasing scenes of stress

In contrast to the previous scenes, there are scenes that are used to relax the tension of the story. These can be scenes of resolution (which we will see later), setting scenes … or simply scenes in which the plot advances, but in a more relaxed way, so that the reader has some respite within so much action.

Intensity: medium-low
Location: can appear anywhere in the story.

Revelation scenes

Halfway between a scene of increased tension and a scene of turning point, we find the scenes of revelation, which are those in which you discover an information or an element of vital importance to the plot and that the reader or the character was unknown until now.

Intensity: medium-high
Location: can appear anywhere in the story.

Scenes of crisis

The scenes of crisis in a story are quite similar to the climax that we will see next, but without reaching its intensity. Are those moments in which the protagonists are finding small obstacles in their way and have to face them.

Intensity: medium-high.
Location: can appear anywhere in the story.


The scene of the climax is similar to the scenes of crisis in the sense that in it the protagonist also has to face an obstacle, only that this time it is the final obstacle, the biggest one, the one that will decide finally if it gets your goal or not.

Intensity: very high. It is the most intense scene in history.
Location: there is only one climax scene per story and this always precedes the last act or outcome.

Resolution scenes

Once the threshold of the climax is reached, already fully immersed in the last act, we find the resolution scenes, much lower in intensity, but very necessary in some stories where there are things to explain or you want to show what happens with the characters once the adventure is over.

Intensity: low.
Location: they are placed in the last act, after the climax.

Mix of scenes

In addition to the ones we have seen here, we can also find scenes in which two or more of the previous points are mixed (for example, a scene of increased tension in which there is also some ambiance), but there will always be one that stand out from the others and mark what is the real intensity of the scene in the whole of the work.

So far the scene types according to their intensity. What do you think? Do you usually use any of these points to structure your scenes?


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