In the novel writing workshop I taught this fall, I asked my students to write down as many novel devices they could think of, starting with the basics (plot, character, and so on), and continuing into more shadowy, magical territories. I participated as well, and after a few minutes I found myself writing down some unexpected stuff – not exactly devices, and yet, integral to my own novel, or to ones I’d read and admired. Afterward, we shared our lists with one another; read aloud, they sounded beautiful, and wise, and often one word would hit me in the gut and I’d think, “Yes! That is necessary to the novel!” It was a strangely inspiring exercise.
What follows is the list of devices my class and I came up with. There were a few repeated ones, but for the sake of space I have only listed them only once. What would you add to this list?
character, plot, language, conflict, resolution, scene, setting, theme, point of view, pacing, voice, dialogue, style, tone, detail, summary, exposition, chapters, rhythm, time (of day, of year, of life), structure, protagonist, antagonist, inciting incident, climax, mid-point, prologue, epilogue, double entendre, vernacular, structure, tension, suspense, story within a story, discomfort, context, seeming villains who turn out to be good guys, seeming good guys who turn out to be villains, description, historical period, biblical narrative form: (“and then and then and then…”), fantasy, fact, logic, dream sequence, “aha!” moment, McGuffin, red herring, discovery, desire, twist of fate, internal monologue, explanation, events, obstacles, eavesdroppers become involved in plot, autobiographical elements, prediction, magic, arbitrary action, humor, contrast (between characters, events, points of view), relationships, confession, events, growth, deus ex machina, references to literature or popular culture, innocents caught in a web of deceit, unreliable narrator, sex, perspective, flashback, slow motion, stasis, denouement, longing, motivation, beauty, surprise, sidekick, misunderstanding, secrets, entrances, exits, light