Novel Spanning Months???

by Bill

Question: In the current novel I am writing, (a realistic fiction with a paranormal-ish twist,) the protagonist, in short, is staying away from home, during the period of which I've decided to be four months. I've covered the first few days of this "vacation", five to be exact, but I am wondering how to spread the story out so that it will take four months overall in order to finish the story. The novel spanning over four months is, in fact, VERY important to the story. Also, as the story is set in a small town, there isn’t much more “exciting” stuff I can add into the story, I have tried.

I have the basic plot, and every single detail of the setting fleshed out, but I don’t know if I should add fillers, if I should split the story into two novels altogether, change the idea, or what. I’m lost in every way on how I should tackle this, and it’s jeopardizing my whole system! What would you recommend I do? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks so much!

Answer: You should never "add fillers" to a novel. Every event should be essential to the story, and by that I mean it should be an important part of a dramatic arc.

Filler usually reads as filler. Because it's not essential to the story or character arcs, it is often boring and a good editor will suggest you cut it.

However, what you can do is "develop" your story, which is an entirely different process.

Let's say you start by outlining your story according to the W-Plot model...

That will give you 5 major turning points, plus four acts of the overall story throughline (Dramatica calls these the four overall signposts).

Then you sketch out the main character's arc, with its four signposts...

initial approach --> growth --> personal crisis --> judgement

Next you have an impact character throughline, with a similar arc...

initial influence --> growing influence --> impact character crisis --> resolution

And then
you have the arc of their relationship...

initial setup --> deepening relationship --> relationship crisis --> resolution

That gives you 16 signposts in addition to the five drivers. (For more on this see

Now each of the 16 signposts could be a single event, but you may find it makes more sense in a full-length work to break each signpost into a sequence of events that has its own arc...

setup --> complication --> crisis --> resolution

If you developed each signpost in this way, you would get 64 events, plus the five drivers. That may be enough for your novel. (Not all sequences have four events, or the same number of events. They can easily vary from 1-8 events, but I'm keeping it simple here.)

In addition, you may have subplots involving some of your minor characters that illustrate other aspects of your themes. Each of these should have its own arc as well.

In fact, if you really wanted to go further -- perhaps design an entire four-book series -- then you could subdivide your signposts again, creating 256 events. A quarter of the events would go into each act, and each act would be one book in the series. (Obviously it's not quite this simple. You would have to make sure each book felt like a complete story, as well as setting up the next book.)

But the key benefit of developing a story in this way is that each event is a crucial stepping stone in a dramatic arc. Nothing is "filler." It's all important.

Just to be clear... by "event" I mean a change. Something happens with each event that sends the characters and the story in a new direction.

You might also want to plot out your story using a calendar, if your time period is so exact. You don't have to write about each day, just the days when something important happens (one of your events). But planning this ahead of time can help keep you on track.

Best of luck.

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