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Crafting a Novella, Part 10


 Wrapping It All Up Into a Nice, Neat Package

By: Donna Schlachter

What better time of the year to “wrap up” a series than in December, that month of gift-giving? For some, it will be a review of the series in capsule form. For others, perhaps you joined the series late or missed an installment or two.

All in all, I hope that by pulling the highlights into one post, you end up with a document you can keep close to hand for when you start that next novella project.

Novellas are popular right now. Readers are accustomed to reading sound bites in their news feed, social media, and even books. Beginning and finishing a book in a single sitting—such as an afternoon or evening, on a plane or train—is satisfying and exciting at the same time. Satisfying to get all the questions answered, the problems resolved, and get to the Happily-Ever-After, and exciting, because just think of all the books yet to be read!


From Crafting a Novella, Introduction:

  1. Come up with a story that has two interesting people who find themselves in a sticky situation. Many novellas are romance-based for this reason.
  2. Decide on a sub-plot that will be resolved in this book, or soon if this book is in a series.
  3. Limit your cast of characters. Hero, heroine, a bad person if needed.
  4. Figure out your story arc. Just because it’s shorter doesn’t mean you can make it any less satisfying.
  5. Limit the situations to two Black Moments or Crisis Points.
  6. Offer your character alternatives to choosing the hard road, just as in a full-length novel.
  7. Force your character to making decisions that will be in direct contrast to their worldview.
  8. Weave your theme throughout the dialogue, the internal thoughts, the choices the characters make, and foreshadowing.
  9. Consider your audience as you create your story.
  10. Include Character arc/journey.


From Building Believable Characters

Don’t describe your character as though you’re reading off their driver’s license. If the physical description isn’t important to the story, we don’t need to know.

Dichotomies in physical build from siblings or others in the family might also cause your character to question their lineage.

From Creating a Strong Secondary Character:

Secondary characters should have some relationship to the main character(s). A good secondary character impacts on the main character’s story arc, helps them through it or prevents them from getting to their goal. While the secondary character has a backstory, it usually isn’t as important to the plot and story arc as the main character’s is. However, you should know their backstory, even if it never appears on the page, because that’s what defines their reactions and inner turmoil. However, to justify their actions, a little insight into their history can be helpful.

From Crafting a Strong Villain:

To craft believable villains, keep these things in mind:

— nobody is all bad.

— bad guys don’t see that what they do is bad.

— all villains have a story, a backstory, if you will, that explains their current actions.

From Determining the Perfect Number of Characters:

  1. Simplify your story by reusing story elements, keeping your story elements closely linked, and maintaining familiar tropes and plots so your readers don’t have to learn anything new.
  2. Fewer characters usually mean your story is more efficient.
  3. Limiting or reducing the number of characters means you spend more time on each character.
  4. Cutting the cast keeps the players in the same place, limiting the number of settings a reader has to recall.
  5. Using fewer characters reduces the number of points-of-view, so readers feel like they get to know characters better.
  6. With fewer characters, characters are involved in scenes more often, so readers don’t forget who is who.

From Harmony & Conflict:

How to show conflict:

  • Through spoken dialogue, where each character expresses their wants and desires which should be contrary to what the other person wants.
  • Through internal dialogue, where you show us what the characters are thinking.
  • Through narrative, use the setting or surroundings to impact your point of view character.
  • Through occupations or skill sets, characters can solve problems (create harmony) using what they know.

From Tone Down the Drama:

  • Person against person – the most common type of conflict; can be relational, romantic, emotional, theological, issue-related, political, or a host of other options.
  • Person against nature – often the character is on their own and has to find a way to overcome the situation.
  • Person against self – could be a fear, an addiction, a difficult past, or a tendency to choose wrong relationships.
  • Person vs society – the hero/heroine comes to the aid of a victim of a real or perceived injustice
  • Person vs technology – we often see this in science-based fiction or world-building fiction.
  • Person vs supernatural – can include imagined supernatural such as shape-shifters, or it could include ghosts, demons, gods, goddesses, aliens, and the like.

From Character Arc and Change:

The kinds of character arcs:

  1. Positive change arc – where the character or their world changes for the better
  2. Negative change arc – where the character realizes what they want isn’t better; where they fail to achieve their goal (tragedy); and where they change their mind about what they want and accept something less
  3. Flat arc – where the character has a belief that gets tested throughout the story but that belief keeps them going until the end

From Character Descriptions and Attributes:

Use character descriptions to accomplish more than one goal:

  • Differentiate your characters in looks, habits, and actions
  • Allow room for backstory. Why do they do, wear, look like they do?
  • Keep the reader interested and engaged
  • Allow the reader to accept that your characters are just like people they know in some way
  • Explain why they say and do what they say and do; gives credibility to them as people

From Choosing Names and Occupations that Enhance your Novella:

  1. Figure out who and what your character is so you can find a name and occupation that will contribute.
  2. Choose names that are correct for the setting, time period, ethnicity, and social status.
  3. Avoid names that end in S – this always makes for a tricky possessive and plural situation.
  4. Choose names your reader can pronounce or provide a pronunciation if possible.
  5. Don’t have two or more characters with names that sound the same.
  6. Consider a name’s past. .
  7. Choose a name that reveals who the character is.
  8. Don’t choose a name that overbears the story. Use of actual person’s name or life story: You can use a real person’s name or actual events so long as you don’t violate their right to privacy.

Each original post contained several unique resource links, so if you have questions about any of the items in this summary, feel free to scroll through the archives.

Editor’s Note: Due to the transitioning to the new website, a couple of the above mentioned articles are not available at this time. Please check back as we continue to update PPW’s website.

About Donna:

Donna Schlachter, Headshot

A hybrid author, Donna Schlachter writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both, and is an avid oil painter. Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive 2 free ebooks simply for signing up for our free newsletter!


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