The 4 Foundational Pillars of Novel Structure

A course for novelists who want to build a solid story that will stand the tests of time and scrutiny.

Enroll in Course for $49

Writing a novel is a daunting task. Few succeed at creating a story that holds together. Even those who have taken countless classes and read dozens of books on novel writing still don't have a clue how to construct a strong novel.

Why is it so hard? Isn't it just a matter of laying out an interesting plot and crafting empathetic characters?

No. It's not. Most novels are seriously flawed, despite careful planning and creative ideas. Why? Because the structure won't hold up the story.

Novels, like buildings, need to conform to time-tested structural principles. And while many great books on writing craft teach helpful skills, if a writer doesn't first build the four key pillars needed for support, his story will collapse. It's that simple.

Just as a solid framework is needed for a building to support a heavy roof, a novel needs a strong foundation to support a plot. And this foundation can't be built in separate pieces.

Most writing craft books, bloggers, and instructors teach about the important elements that go into a novel. But few, if any, take a holistic approach. What does that mean? That, similar to a builder who has to envision the finished structure at every stage of the building process, a novelist must construct his story by working on all the primary foundational pillars together.

Just as corner pillars that support the Parthenon must be perfectly placed and identical in size and strength, the four corner pillars of novel construction must be solid and in place before a substantial story can be built upon it.

Once a writer builds those 4 solid pillars, his story will have a base to stand on.

This course will help writers test and develop the foundational elements of their story so that they can ensure they have what's needed to build a solid novel.

Listen to the Introduction for free as a preview (see below).

Here's what this course will cover:

Concept with a Kicker: Novelists need to understand the difference between idea, premise, and concept. A great idea does not make a novel. Ideas have to be taken to a higher level; they have to have a kicker. Premise is plot with a hero, villain, and stakes. Concept transcends plot and premise by adding that one intriguing “what if?” question. Concept empowers and drives idea, plot, and premise. Without a riveting concept, a novel’s support will be flimsy, like a house built with twigs.

Conflict with High Stakes:Conflict creates plot. Your protagonist wants something. Someone prevents him from immediately gaining that thing. Conflict ensues, and a story is born. Too many novels have minimal conflict—internal and external. Conflict needs to involve high stakes—both personal and public—in order for the story to propel forward with the necessary tension. Concept and conflict go hand-in-hand, for without conflict the concept won’t have momentum.

Protagonist with a Goal: All too often protagonists of novels are aimless, just reacting to events as they happen without having a specific plot goal. But a novel needs a clear objective for its hero—and each major supporting character also needs a goal, including the antagonist. Protagonists’ goals are tied in with the concept and premise and so must be set up right away in a novel, and the protagonist’s journey to achieve that goal drives the plot and is decided at the climax of the book. It’s not enough to create an intriguing main character; protagonists must have a core need that drives them.

Theme with a Heart: Even if writers don’t have a conscious theme in mind for their novel, there is a reason they are writing it, and a theme or themes being implied by the premise. Why bother writing a book if you are not passionate about something in this story? Theme is an essential pillar because it gives a novel focus and depth. And the way the theme is presented throughout the story should show the “heart” that underlies the plot.

This course is meant to help you fashion the blueprint for a terrific story. While there are 12 key pillars of novel construction that are essential to get under your belt, these first 4 pillars are key. Once you have your 4 corner pillars strong, you can move on to your 8 supporting pillars.

Why this course will help you in a way no other will:

You'll learn how to build each of these 4 corner pillars so that they will stand up to scrutiny and the test of time. To build a timeless, memorable novel, you need a killer concept, a unique protagonist with a compelling goal. You need conflict and high stakes oozing from your pages. And you need theme with a heart to make your readers love your book.

In addition, you'll get worksheets and questions and checklists to help you brainstorm your ideas and solidify your story.

If you purchase the critique package, to ensure you've built the most solid foundation possible, once you're ready, you'll submit your four completed worksheets to Susanne Lakin to critique. Included in your package is an in-depth written critique of your four pillars. And you also get a one-hour phone or Skype session with Susanne to work through your ideas and hammer out any cracks or flaws that might weaken your story.

So what are you waiting for?

Get ready to put your ideas through the wringer. You'll come out the other side with a terrific foundation to support your story. A story you can build that readers will love and that you can be proud of.

Your Teacher

C.S. Lakin
C.S. Lakin

C.S. Lakin is the author of sixteen novels and five writing craft books. Her award-winning blog Live Write Thrive gives tips and writing instruction for both fiction and nonfiction writers, and her Writer’s Toolbox series gives fiction writers everything they need to know to create compelling, solid stories. Her newest release, 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing, features more than sixty detailed Before and After examples of flawed and corrected passages to help authors learn to spot flaws in their writing.

Frequently Asked Questions

When can I start taking this course?
The course will be available immediately and will remain available as long as you keep your account with us, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It is completely self-contained and can be enjoyed at your own pace - you decide when you start and when you finish. If there is something you missed, you can go back at any point at any time.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling in this course, you will have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - on any device at any time. Simply log into your account from a device and the courses for which you registered will remain available to you.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us within 10 days and we will give you a full refund. ([email protected])
May I share this course with others?
We would prefer that you keep your course purchases for your own use. We are aware that we cannot prevent "sharing," but doing so undermines the spirit under which the Institute was created. We ask that you use your best judgment and respect the value of our teachers’ intellectual property.
Can I interact with the teacher directly?
Our courses are not set up for one-on-one interaction. Some of the teachers are available for coaching but at this point we recommend you reach out to them through their web sites to see if they are available.

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