Guest #7 Structuring An Episodic Series of Novellas

Author: Adam David Collings Published: about 2 months ago.
Tags: plot, structure, novella Category: Writing tips

I have a large collection of DVD box sets and love watching episodes of my favourite TV shows: Stargate Atlantis, Sanctuary, Murdoch Mysteries, and many more. Did you know that a similar concept is being used in fiction? Sci-fi writer Adam David Collings has recently published the first episode in his Jewel of the Stars space opera. I really enjoyed Earth's Remnant, and you can read my review here. I asked Adam if he could share some tips about how he plotted his entire series. He's given some great insights below. Thanks for sharing with us today, Adam.

Story-telling is an ever-changing art. The eBook revolution has brought new opportunities, along with new forms of story-telling. One new concept that has become popular is the idea of the episodic novella. Structured like a TV season, it is not uncommon to use words like episode and season in relation to these types of books.

My space opera, Jewel of The Stars, is one such example. It’s all about the passengers and crew of a cruise ship, on the run from an alien armada. For this series, I have planned out 4 seasons of 6 episodes each. So how does one plot out a project like this? I’m glad you asked.

Nested Story Structure

Yes, I’m coining a term. Am I important enough to do that? Oh well, I’m doing it anyway. When I say nested story structure, what I mean is that I have taken the principles of story structure and applied them at multiple levels to each episode, each season, and the series as a whole.

In case you’re not familiar with Story Structure, here’s a basic breakdown of the major plot points:

  • Hook
  • First Plot Point (25% mark)
  • Midpoint (50% mark)
  • Second Plot Point (75% mark)
  • Climax

These plot points divide the story into four equal parts, or three acts. (The second act is twice as long as the first and third acts, and is actually separated into two distinct parts anyway.) story-structure

At the micro level, each episode is a story in its own right. A novella. It follows the structure above. It has its own plot points and acts. Moving up a level, I have applied the same structure to the overall season. In this way, the midpoint of episode 2 becomes the first plot point for the entire season. The end of episode three becomes the midpoint of the season, and the midpoint of episode 5 becomes the 3nd plot point of the season. Confused yet? A diagram may help. season-structure

Now, let’s take it up the final step, to the macro level. We’re looking at the entire series, which, as I’ve said, will run for 4 seasons. This fits very nicely into the four “acts” of story structure. Season 1 is act 1. Season 2 is the first half of act 2. Season 3 is the second half of act 2, and season 4 is act 3.

In this way, my season finales are the major plot points. The end of season 1 is the first plot point. The end of season 2 is the midpoint. The end of season 3 is the second plot point. series-structure

In this way, the plot points in my story are pulling double (sometimes triple) duty. The first episode serves as the hook for the entire series, and the first season, serves to introduce the characters and situations, in preparation for the season finale, which will set up the primary conflict for the overall story.

If you’d like to follow the crew of Jewel of The Stars, you can grab the first episode here or get the prequel story for free at AdamDavidCollings.com/free.


Adam David Collings is an author of speculative fiction. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife Linda and his two children. Adam draws inspiration for his stories from his over-active imagination, his life experiences and his faith.

Adam is a great lover of stories, enjoying them in books, movies, scripted TV and computer games. Adam discusses these, along with his monthly Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Bulletin on his youTube channel.

AdamDavidCollings.com

Books2Read.com/jewel

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