Should a book be structured like an essay? ie intro,body,conclusion?

....with the body being the storyline?


Response: A nonfiction book can certainly be structured that way.

As for a novel, there are some novels with character narrators who address the reader at the start of the book to present a point of view or belief about life which is the equivalent of a thesis statement in an essay.

The bulk of the novel consists of the narrator telling the events of the story that drew him to that point of view and are intended to convince the reader that the thesis is sound.

To take an example, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald follows that pattern. It starts with the narrator, Tom, telling the reader about the importance of not judging people until you get to know them. Then he tells the story of how he came to know Gatsby, and concludes the book with a description of the qualities that made Gatsby admirable, even though Gatsby was, on the surface, a con-man, an adulterer, and a poser, obsessed with money and image.

Similarly, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice begins with the thesis "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." This thesis is eventually proven by the various marriages that take place in the novel.

However, most novels do not have such a character narrator who states upfront what message he/she is trying to convey.

Stories do have premises or morals, lessons which are proven by their events and conclusions, but these are usually not stated upfront. Rather, they must be inferred by the reader. Fully developed stories often have more than one thematic issue that is being explored in the story, and can present several different morals.

Also, a well-developed story presents all sides of the argument, not just evidence that supports the premise. For instance, if you have a premise such as, "Love conquers all," the events in the story will, on balance, prove that love is stronger than the forces which oppose it. However, to avoid appearing too heavy-handed, you should probably include some events where love loses or where an opposing quality (perhaps hate, fear, greed, prejudice, etc.) wins.

Failure to include this kind of balance can make the story seem trite and unrealistic (because everyone knows that in life things are never black and white).

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Plot Invite.

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero