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Kevin Nelson
Author, Editor (anthology)
The Role of Cause and Effect in Novel Writing
Kevin Nelson, author

Good storytelling is about creating an unbroken chain of events in the story from the onset to the climax then to the conclusion. Cause and effect is very important for plot development and how events of the story affect and effect each other. It can also influence other structures of literature in the novel which include: Characters Setting Narrative Point of View Conflict Theme Style Tone As such, mastering this skill is vital for improving the quality of your writing especially for the self-publishing authors who account for top 10 freelancing services offered. In this article, we shall discuss how cause and effect determines the quality of writing, paying close attention to plot development. Plot Development Edward Morgan Forster, an English novelist, defined the story as a recount of events and the plot as the narrative of events with emphasis placed on causality. He was instrumental in the identification of the common plot weakness which is the causal relationship. Even though the plot integrates the elements in the story, it must demonstrate how an incident leads to another and why. The following types of plot emanate from this description: 1. Dramatic or Progressive Plot This is a story with a strong cause-and-effect relationship between the events of the story creating a continuous prose throughout the novel. The sequential structure lays down the setting and conflict in the story then proceeds unbrokenly all through the climax to the conclusion. There is a clear relationship between the events where one event leads to another and the reader can effortlessly perceive this relationship. 2. Episodic Plot When the plot lacks a strong or has a weak cause-and-effect chain between events in the story, it’s called episodic. The story has several peaks that might not be related to each other. The events still portray a chronological order and are best suited for exploring and explaining aspects of the novel such as the characters’ personalities and nature of their existence. There still exists the relationship between events, though not very conspicuous. 3. Parallel Plot This is a story with two or more plots that are linked to each other by a character and have a similar theme. The events in the story are distinct from each other and they can be connected by a single feature of the story. Events will seem to occur irrespective of whether prior events took place or not. 4. Flashback This structure relays past information of events whereby the story can begin in the middle of the action and goes back to fill in details that were skipped. Flashbacks can occur more than once in the story and in different parts as well. This type of plot explains the relationship between events that occurred before story begun and those that come up during the story. Types of Cause and Effect in Novel Writing 1. Explicit The cause and effect for a particular statement in the novel are both stated. You don’t have to figure out any of the two parts. It is also referred to as stated cause-and-effect. 2. Implicit Either the cause or the effect of a statement in the novel is stated. The other part of the statement is for the reader to figure out. This type of cause-and-effect relationship is also referred to as unstated or implied. 3. Reciprocal Similar to the ripple effect, this relationship occurs when an event in the plot of the novel results in another event which in turn affects an entirely separate event. This pattern will continue throughout a series of events till the end. The Relevance of Cause and Effect in Novel Writing 1. To Create Flow Cause and effect relationship trickles between the novel’s events and explains the order in which they are associated. Example: “They couldn’t risk letting the information he had getting in the wrong hands so they chased after Derrick down the rough terrain…” Note the series of events. The author has brought out the cause - letting information Derrick had to get into the wrong hands and the effect, which is Derrick being chased. 2. To Create “Believability” A novel needs a sense of “believability” whether factual or fictional. Should an event occur within the novel without a cause, it creates a gap. Gaps make your novel not make any sense to the reader and obviously affect its “believability”. Especially in fictional writing, a good author can make a utopia believable through the use of the cause and effect relationship. When reading the story, a reader should understand that the connections between the events in the story form a comprehensive mental image throughout your novel. The “believability” of your story entirely depends on the amount of effort put into creating the mental image. Your novel could be based on real-life events, but because of not applying this tool, it loses “believability”, as your readers will not be able to form the mental image of your story or even understand how events in your story related and influence each other. 3. To Create Suspense Good authors have mastered the skill of keeping readers hooked. Your writing should be the kind that makes your readers want to read more and more. Cause and effect, especially when used in reverse, creates a huge amount of suspense for your readers. However, note that its use in reversal can only work for a section of the book, after which the normal order resumes. Check out an example of how the first sentence of a novel can begin below: “Mary stood frozen, holding her breath and struggling not to make a single sound. Her heart was racing, sweat dripping from her forehead…” Note the use of cause and effect in reversal. Mary’s reaction is an effect, and your readers will be hooked to find out what exactly caused it. There are some resources available online that you could consult for some examples of cause and effect essay topics. You can also get guidelines on how to write a cause and effect essays. Conclusion Freelance writers are increasing in number daily whereby, there’s a freelance workforce of 53 million individuals in the US alone. Freelancing is competitive, and skill is crucial to stay at the top of the game. For this reason, it’s important for authors to understand and perfect writing tips such as the use of cause and effect. The relationship between the two is what makes it possible for authors to produce good novels. They create flow, “believability” and suspense within a novel, making your novel more interesting, consequently gaining a bigger audience. Obviously, a bigger audience means a bigger market and more returns! This is what we all desire at the end of the day.