Novel Structure – Musings – Ligaments, Tendons and Muscles
So if story structure and plot is the skeleton of a novel, what are the ligaments, tendons and muscles?
Well, what is a ligament?
According to Merriam-Webster, a ligament is:
1) A tough fibrous band of tissue connecting the articular extremities of bones or supporting an organ in place
2) A connecting or unifying bond
I like the idea of a unifying bond. Something that brings elements of a story together. Without characters a story is nothing. Even the narrator is a character, but that’s another tale.
A tendon joins muscle to bone. So, in my analogy, if characters are the muscles, tendons and ligaments of a story, then they connect parts of the story together; or other characters together.
Some muscles are bigger than others, but each has an important function and we must ensure each of our characters has a function. All muscles don’t interact with all others, just as all of our characters don’t interact with all of the others, but they must all connect to the story somehow otherwise what are they doing there? Even if their part in the story is just to reveal some character trait that will help the mc overcome his/her issues, they must have a role.
Something else that occurs to me as I write this – we have identical muscles in our legs and arms (and probably elsewhere, I am no doctor), and they balance each other. Imagine if our right leg muscles were three times the size of the left. We would be left (see what I did there 😀 ) unbalanced. So, too, our characters should balance each other – shouldn’t they? If we’re writing a romance, should the male mc carry as much weight in the novel as the female mc? This could be another interesting topic to debate. It might be a good idea to map one of your favourite novels to see how much space is given to each character. Even a rough idea can help. It’s something I want to do at some point, when I’ve figured out a good way of doing it. I tried googling to see if anybody had done such a thing but nothing came up.
What about those characters with smaller parts who at first seem unimportant yet have a fundamental, integral role to play? Sometimes we don’t see the correlation between what happens and why until much later. The ligament stretches…
What do you think? Should primary characters be given equal story weight, and secondary characters, tertiary, and so on?