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Writing Books/fictional novels and narrative structure


Hello, I am trying to wright a fictional novel about the life of an American political leader, in the future. I was wondering if maybe you could give me examples of fictional books that were able to present the entire life of an individual, from the time of his birth to the time of his death. My main character lives for about 40 years.At first i was thinking of doing a fictional biography but i don't know if dialogues would fit well in that? I am still confused at how i will be able to find a narrative structure that will be able to present his entire life, and at the same time having a lot of dialogues.

Thanks :)  

Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna is a great example of fictional biography. I would suggest you look at this first as an example of perfect structure and narrative.

Seven years of work has resulted in The Lacuna, an important novel that has much to say about art, language and freedom of expression. Kingsolver turns her penetrating gaze on the troubled relationship between art and politics in the United States. For her “...writing a novel is a political act, automatically, because of the way it draws the reader into a carefully constructed world-view and generates empathy for the people who inhabit that world”.  She writes with a sharp political edge that, in keeping with her subject, gives the novel a superb authenticity. Her canvas is as broad as Diego Rivera mural and just as colourful. Set in the United States and Mexico, the novels spans the years from 1929 to 1951 and, unlike the broad brush strokes of a mural, the work is one of chilling detail.

The protagonist of The Lacuna, Harrison William Shepherd, is an introvert, a cook, secretary and part-time writer and from the first page to the last, Kingsolver’s flawless prose takes you on a journey through his life. The reader, a willing voyeur, is never subjected to a single moment of disbelief even though Shepherd’s extraordinary world expands to include (amongst others), Lev Davidovich Trotsky, Natalia Trotsky, Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera. Each of these individuals is portrayed with an amazing accuracy. According to Kingsolver, Frida Kahlo was not to have been a major character, but as she says, “She was not a frozen icon, but a rogue...She started to steal scenes. She was a natural for drawing out my reclusive narrator.” Kingsolver’s precise research is never on display. There are no showing-off moments, no false strokes of her brush.   

Yet, it is not just the characters but also the times they live in that are truly at the heart of the novel. From the world of the Mexican revolutionary muralists to the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s, Kingsolver does not shirk from confronting the politics of the times and by extension makes us question the present.

The Lacuna is a rare and compelling novel of power and beauty and H W Shepherd’s life is a life worth reading.

Edward Rutherfurd is a writer of epics and his structure, while formulaic is interesting. Here you will find not one but many biographies.. His Sarum (1987) follows five families from the Ice Age to the present day. His next, Russka (1991), spans 1800 years of Russia's history, people and culture from the days of the princes and tsars to the present. There are four other titles as well: London (1997), The Forest (2000), Dublin(2004), and Ireland: Awakening (2006).
His latest novel, New York is another epic. The tale sprawls over four centuries and the ingredients – history, romance, fact and fiction – combine to make for an enjoyable read. For those unfamiliar with Rutherford’s style, it should be pointed out that, although grounded in superb research, it is nevertheless a work of fiction.  However, readers who are already know New York will be rewarded with fresh insights into the history and character of what is undeniably a fascinating city. New York by Edward Rutherfurd is published by Century.  

There are thousands of others that any good librarian will suggest, but these two will give you a sense of what is possible.

Good luck with your book.



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Sandy McCutcheon


Author of 22 plays, 12 bestselling thrillers, a memoir and children's fiction.I can work with people on the process of writing, what to expect and ask for from an editor. How to work with the publisher`s marketing and publicity people. And how to survive book launches and publicity tours!


Published author of 22 plays, 12 bestselling thrillers, a young adult and three non-fiction titles. Visit his Moroccan blog at for a look at his blogging work.

St Andrews, Helsinki University and other institutions. Adult Educator of the Year Award, Australia

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