What are the structural elements of a novel ?

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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A well-written novel will have an introduction, sometimes referred to exposition, where the author lays out background information about characters and setting, a plot comprised of rising action and a turning point, or climax, followed by resolution and the end of the story.  Plot structure is sometimes depicted like a roller coaster climbing a hill, reaching the top, and then falling to the ground again. 

In the young adult novel Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen, for example, the opening chapters are expository in nature.  The reader meets a troubled juvenile delinquent, Cole Matthews, who is in a small boat headed to banishment on an island near the coast of Alaska.  The exposition of Cole's troubled past is told through flashbacks from third person limited point of view, limitd to Cole.  Cole's banishment is initially unsuccessful; he is attacked by a bear and returned to Minneapolis, where he is given another chance. 

His second banishment goes better, and as he discovers the root of much of his pain and misbehavior, he also learns that the boy he beat severely, Peter Driscal, is not recovering and may be suicidal.  The climax of the novel, the place where the main conflict is resolved, occurs in the last few pages of the book where Peter confronts Cole once and for all, attacking him like Cole had done to him.  Cole doesn't fight back, and when Peter realizes Cole will not hurt him again, despite being attacked himself, the two come to terms with each other, make peace and develop a relationship that, if not friendly, is mutually respectful.  The resolution of the novel is quite short; the fight between the two boys is a long time coming, and Mikaelsen keeps the reader wondering until the very end of the book. 


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