HOW TO OUTLINE A STORY-PLOT

story-plot planning. Hands typingOUTLINE YOUR STORY-PLOT

Once you’ve established the Story Goal, you now need to develop a plan. (Goal is for the young woman to solve the mystery. The plan is what you want her to do to reach that goal)

Scary times, Wicked Witch Procrastination is hovering, give her the boot and get ready to commit. If you’ve followed the previous articles, you’ll know you’ve already achieved the hardest things in writing. ‘Gasp.’ And that is establishing your story’s goal and ask the pertinent questions to begin to develop the story-plot.

You should now feel a modicum of excitement, as you’re almost ready to start the impressive part of writing. Wait a little longer as we need to get a few more things in place first.

At this stage, it’s a good idea to make the first outline of the story-plot as a springboard for you to bounce your ideas off. You’ll already have discovered a quick sketch of your beginning and a tentative ending, if not, you need to do that first.

Now you need to expand the middle part of the story as this is the heart and soul, the engine and the driving force of your story. Without a story-plot, your characters can’t move on and develop the story arc and will have no meaning.

STORY-PLOT OUTLINE

The outline will help you define the arc of your narrative:

  • The beginning.
  • The developing plot.
  • The characters.
  • The settings
  • Events leading to the significant conflict or climax, and then the resolution and ending.

CONFLICT

At this point, I would like to make clear what a conflict is as it’s a critical element of a story. You have conflicts in your scenes, your chapters and of course throughout your story line, without them, your story would be bland and boring, and you would lose your reader at the first hurdle – that is not one of YOUR goals.

I made the terrible mistake of thinking a conflict was an augment, or a fight, I imagined a lot of sabre rattling, cursing and scuffling. My anxiety levels flew through the roof, especially as my first book was a historical romance. How did I fit all those augments into a love story? But no, a conflict within a scene or paragraph can be as simple as your character wanting to go for a drive but is unable to find their keys. The missing keys prevent them from achieving the goal of going for a drive.

CONFLICT

Conflict. So, in short, the conflict is ANYTHING small or large that prevents your character from achieving their goals.

INTERNAL CONFLICT

An Internal conflict is when the character wishes they were a nicer person, (the goal) but another character keeps aggravating them. (The conflict) The aggravation leads them to forget the promise they made to change, and say or do something nasty. They don’t achieve their goal/ambition.

Tip.  Ensure your story plan has enough detail but not enough to weigh you down and prevent you from writing the story.

NOT SURE?

At this stage, you’re not sure which characters to focus on, or whether you want to set the story in the haunted forest, the Caribbean, a town or an ice planet? No need to panic. Just try one.  Remember you don’t need to have a fully developed outline or even a half-developed one before you start.  It’s up to you how you how detailed you want to work. It’s your manuscript, your creation, and your baby, so you should pick whichever way best suits you.

WHAT IS THE ESSENTIAL STORY-PLOT OUTLINE YOU NEED?

  • Character sketches.  Should include your Protagonists (main characters) and can be highly detailed to include their colouring, mannerisms and personality or so primary, you only identify their gender.  Don’t forget to question, as the answers will push your story forward.
  • The general setting is important for many story-lines but not for all. It’s a good idea to include something even if you don’t add it to your book. A setting will help you visualise and develop the plot in the correct location. It will also contribute to keeping you focused on the whereabouts of your characters.
  • Consequences. You must ask yourself what is your main character’s worst fear if she doesn’t achieve the goal or solve the problem?”

The answer to the above question is called the Consequence of the story. The Consequence is the negative situation or event which will result if the Goal is not achieved.  And is an important part of the story plot’s outline, as it develops the conflict and the resolution. The combination of goal and consequence will create dramatic tension in your plot, and make it meaningful, as your character discovers the terrible consequences if their quest fails.

  • To recap.  Consequence describes what must be accomplished in order to achieve the goal. You can think of this as a checklist of one or more events. As the Requirements are met in the course of the novel, your reader will feel the characters are getting closer to the attainment of the goal. 

HOW WILL YOU OUTLINE YOUR STORY PLOT?

How will you do it? Whichever way you decide you’ll need some form of structure to prevent you from actually “Losing the plot.” However, your outline is constructed, when you begin writing, you’ll need to fill in those gaps with meaningful words. This can happen with perfectly formed sentences flowing from your fingertips racing across the keyboard or it can be slow, and methodical sentence writing. Then there is the frenzied writer who writes a random paragraph without an outline and then doesn’t know where to go, because they don’t have anything to guide them. An equally frenzied deleting session begins this scenario can happen over and over again until the writer gives up exhausted, frustrated and feeling a failure.

One little TIP if you do feel it’s necessary to delete a whole paragraph – DON’T. Cut & paste and place them in a folder you can name SCRAP. It’s amazing how redundant prose is worth keeping for a later date.

RESEARCH

  • Research: The word research conjures up all sorts of meanings to different people. Most people think of it in the terms of academia, science, experiments, something heavy. The relevance of research is often misunderstood and feared. Let me explain how exciting it can be in developing your plot. Each piece of material, document or any information gleaned from your chosen area of research is like a jigsaw, fitting into place, and filling the gaps of your story.

 

 

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A story-plot is the heart and soul, the engine and the driving force of your story. Without a plot, your characters can't move on and develop, and the story arc will have no meaning. Learn how to achieve a story plan to allow you to write a novel your readers will love.
RWelsby

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