What do I mean by narrative structure? Some commentators define it very broadly. For them, structuring a narrative is the same thing as plotting a novel.
If you are working through these sections in order, you have already written a plot. So my definition of narrative structure is narrower, and means manipulating the sequence of events in the plot (or the "narrative") in order to tell a better story.
Manipulating them how?
Not all events in a story are equal. Some are critical and will form your "key scenes." Others might be important to the overall understanding of the story, but dramatically they are pretty dull and will probably bore the readers if you present them as a full-blown scene.
Let's say that a chapter in your novel concerns a man arguing with his wife and then making up with her. How are you going to choose to present these events?
These are the kinds of decisions you will be making when structuring your narrative. But I can be more specific than that...
In particular, it involves...
Confused? Don't be, because it is all very simple, as I hope the following articles will demonstrate...
Foreshadowing is a way of sign-posting future events. If a woman has a car crash in Chapter 3, for example, it is a good idea to drop a hint in Chapter 1 that today is not going to be the greatest day of her life.
Why? Because it will create tension and anticipation for the readers - and doing that is a great way of keeping them turning the pages. The biggest danger here is heavy-handedness, but the article above shows you how to avoid it.
And in Examples of Foreshadowing, I make everything crystal clear with some concrete applications for the device.
Now for the second way to alter your narrative structure...
Don't let the name scare you. Exposition is one of those advanced elements of novel writing that might sound daunting but doesn't actually involve a whole lot of work.
It simply means those elements of a story that are crucial to its understanding but don't advance the plot in any way - such as events from the protagonist's past.
The main thing you will learn about backstory and exposition is that is best fed to the reader in bite-sized pieces - a few lines of dialogue about the protagonist's childhood here, a small paragraph of backwards-looking narration there.
Why? Because talking about these things involves "freezing" the forward momentum of the narrative, and that always runs the danger of sending the reader to sleep.
When an influential event from a fictional character's past cannot be dealt with in a few lines, you can present it instead as a flashback.
Flashbacks are simply dramatized scenes from the past. They might not be a crucial element of the present-time story, but they nevertheless have an influence on it. The article shows you how to move from the present to the past and back again in the smoothest way possible.
This method of manipulating a novel's structure is as simple as it sounds. Instead of having events run in chronological order from A through to Z, you simply shuffle the running order - not for the sake of it, but in order to tell a more interesting story.
Out of all the ways to alter your novel's structure, this is the big one - which is why it gets a heading all to itself.
Speeding up and slowing down is basically how you control a novel's all-important pace. And the "tools" that allow you to do each one are called "showing" and "telling"...
Showing and telling lies at the very heart of structuring narratives. It is mentioned, in one form or another, in all of the remaining articles in this section. And it can truly transform your writing from amateur to professional.
But knowing how to show and tell effectively is only half the battle. Just as important is knowing when (and when not) to do it. This article explains all.
And now that you have the right tools at your disposal, we can move onto the subject of pace. Get this right and you will instantly place yourself head and shoulders above the competition (simply because so many beginners have no idea about the correct pacing of a novel).