Characters, Novel Structure, and Revising Your First Draft

Nov 27, 2017 · 5 min read

Why do people read novels?

Photo Courtesy Pixabay.

I think people read to find out what happens next. But what happens next is only interesting if it the “what happens next” involves characters or something important to a character.

Characters ARE your story. They act and react. They create emotion. They show motivation. Without any of this, you don’t have a story. That’s a tall order for your characters. So how do you make sure you’re getting the most out of them?

You edit your story and rewrite until your characters are performing at their best.

Characters and Novel Structure

Once you’ve finished your first draft, you most likely know who your characters are, what they look like, where they work, and so on. But what about how they fit into your story structure? To understand this and make the most of it, you must evaluate your characters in the context of the structure of your novel.

By this point, you know if you’re writing from first-person point of view (POV) or third person. You’ve also decided if you’re writing from multiple points of view. In essence, you know who is telling your story.

When thinking about the POV character for each scene, ask yourself:

  • What is the POV external goal for the scene?
  • What is the POV internal goal for the scene?
  • How does the goal relate to the plot?
  • What happens if your POV fails to achieve the goal?
  • How does scene impact your POV character?
  • How does the scene impact your protagonist (if not the POV for the scene?)

Once you’ve answered the questions, check each scene to ensure the reader will understand the answers. You can show, tell, or imply the answers. It’s up to you to find the right balance. You’re the creative one!

The more important an event, the more you should show the reader what’s happening. “Tell” the less important events, so the reader can move on to the good stuff.

Taking on the task of editing and rewriting your first draft doesn’t have to be overwhelming. A bit of organization will help you complete your rewrite without it taking forever. We created Fictionary to help writers perform their own story edit in a knowledgable and efficient manner.

Below is a look at my work-in-progress, Evolution, within Fictionary. Fictionary helps me focus on my characters on a scene-by-scene basis. It keeps me from convincing myself a scene is okay.

When I review each scene with a focus on the POV character’s goal for example, I know what my character wants. If a character doesn’t want something, the scene will lack tension, and hence be boring. In the scene below, Jaz Cooper has the POV. Once I know the goal, I can decide if she will achieve her goal or not. Sometimes she will. Sometimes she won’t.

I can assess her external goal versus her internal goal. The reader may or may not know what the internal goal is, but if I do, I can be consistent with my character throughout the novel.

It takes work, but I’m serious about making my story a great story, so to me, it’s worth putting in the time and effort. I’ll evaluate each scene focussing on characters, then I’ll evaluate with a focus on plot and setting.

Characters Per Scene

Fictionary shows you how many characters are in each scene. This gives you a chance to determine if you have too many characters in a scene. Too many characters might confuse your reader.

Scenes Per Character

Fictionary will also show you how many scenes each character is in and the order they appear in the novel. You can see I have 33 characters in my novel.

Jaz Cooper is in 85 scenes (good news for me as she’s the protagonist). Eighty-five is the maximum number of scenes a character is in. The minimum number of scenes a character appears in is 1. Dr. Patron is an example of a character who appears once.

Jaz is the first character to appear in the novel. Also good news. The less important a character is, the later he/she can appear in the story.

Fictionary is the first online tool for editing your story, not just your words. Think characters, plot, and settings. Find out more at

How Fictionary Works

A writer imports a manuscript. Fictionary automatically creates a character list, links characters to scenes, plots word count per scene, and draws a story arc.

The writer enters data regarding each scene, evaluates and edits the manuscript based the reports, and then exports the updated manuscript. The reports are dependent on the writer’s input and are created specifically for each manuscript. There are rewrite tips associated with each key element of fiction if you get stuck and need guidance.

Fictionary is designed for the serious author who wants to produce a high-quality manuscript.

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: Using 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Tell Better Stories and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Try Fictionary for free. The first 14 days are on us. No credit card required.


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Tell Better Stories. The first online tool for editing your story, not just your words.

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