Two events novel

by Mu Hou
(New Zealand)

Question: I'm working on a novel which only has two major events. A guy studies abroad, and gets involved in a human trading crime, a hundred pages are describing how he fights with human smugglers within a few days and ended up having to go back to his motherland to avoid police interrogations. That is followed by a transition (only a few hundred words) and we are carried to twelve years later, the protagonist is now doing a risky business, and finally gets himself in a conflict with the mafia. Time span for this part is only one year, taking about another 170 pages. The story ends as the protagonist is killed by mafia. I'm a bit of both a plotter and panster, but I just don't feel the structure of this story will fit in any significant conventional categories -- as two lumps of timeline describing two fairly independent events. Would that do?


Answer: Granted, all you've provided is a very brief description of the story. However, I'm inclined to agree with you. You've got two events or incidents, but I'm not sure if you have a story.

The difference between stories and simple events is that stories mean something. They illustrate something about how the human character copes with problems and situations.

Let's say your first event is the main character's first signpost, illustrating something about his nature, how he handles problems.

That would suggest the overall story really starts with the second event. The main character again gets involved with a dangerous situation. Now see if you can break this second event down into a four-part structure: inciting incident, complications, a crisis, and a resolution. (In other words, you might need to flesh it out a bit.)

At the same time, make sure you show the main character being pressured to handle things differently than last time. He must be put in a difficult situation at the crisis where he must decide whether to do things the same way or change. We need to see how he resolves his inner conflict. Finally, we need to see if his death is a good thing or a bad, according to how it affects the overall story, other characters, etc. Does his death accomplish something worthwhile? Is it a better outcome than running away, which he did before?

Consider also having an impact character - someone who provides the main character an example of someone who handles problems very differently.

Best of luck.

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