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 Question Regarding Story Outlining 
MaraJade001


Joined: 02 Aug 2007
Posts: 88
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
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I was just wondering how many of you outline your stories? I've starting jotting down notes for one (or two, or three), but it's all kind of a mess right now. Any hints on how to plot out my story?

In the past (like 10 years ago) I'd just write freeform, but that's not working for this one. I keep changing my mind about certain aspects halfway through. Then I get frustrated and toss the thing.

Any guidance you guys could give me would be great. Smile

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Rigil Kent


Joined: 25 Feb 2008
Posts: 173
Location: Middle of No and Where
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While I haven't finished (or, for that matter, started) my planned SWars fic (due to my heavy school course load), I have completed a number of ST: Enterprise-based fics so I feel confident in replying.

I use outlines extensively. I am simply incapable of writing something without an outline and I look at the work of people who write that way with a sort of horrified disbelief. As to how I use these outlines, it comes down to my writing style (which is generally limited to a tight 3rd person limited POV). Once I've figured out that general plot of the story, I begin breaking it down into chapters (or acts as I used in the ST:Ent stuff). This is further broken down into POV scenes where I determine who the point-of-view character is and what happens in that person's scene.

For the sake of example, let's presume that I'm planning on writing a chapter that uses a standard SWars movie climax (space battle taking place concurrently with a lightsaber duel between L/M vs Palpatine Clone #437). Due to the constraints of my writing style, I'm not likely to jump back and forth between them, so one will likely be resolved before the other. So, using this format, I've decided (in this hypothetical chapter) that there will be four scenes with the POVs of Luke, Mara, Han, and Wedge. I'd then use an outline like:
Han Solo POV
  • Space battle begins.
  • Solo kicks ass behind controls of the Falcon.
  • Insight: he doesn't want to be here/worries about the kids/whatever.
  • Stuff blows up.
Luke Skywalker POV
  • Luke and Mara fight against the Palpy clone.
  • Nifty stuff happens.
  • Insight: Luke is desperately afraid that Mara won't survive and is concerned that Palpy clone will use this fear against him.
  • Surprise scene ending!
Wedge Antilles POV
  • Space battle continues.
  • Wedge does something crazy.
  • Reflection: he's getting too old for this crap.
  • Surprise scene ending/vague commentary about his fate that readers can infer to mean many different things.
Mara Jade POV
  • Lightsaber duel continues.
  • Emphasize her growing despair over losing to Clone #437. She is no longer the Hand.
  • Surprise end of chapter.

Obviously, a lot more is in there than just this stuff, and I usually use the bullet points if a wickedly cool idea occurs to me that I really want to use during the scene but don't know how to use it exactly yet. Also, if something needs to occur in a particular scene to set up something that happens at a later time in the fic (the "gun on the wall", if you will), I generally make it a point to give that event/dialog/whatever a bullet point. The same is also true: if, for example, a character's surprise revelation is to show up later in the fic and I don't want to telegraph that surprise, it gets a bullet point (especially if the scene in question is from that character's POV.)

I also don't allow myself to be completely limited to the outline. On numerous occasions, I've either completely thrown out a scene and constructed it from scratch (if the first one wasn't working), or alternately changing the POV character to make a scene work (and thus, revising what info the POV character has), or adding something spontaneously that occurs to me while writing the scene that may completely alter that whole balance of it.

This technique works well for me, though I've talked to some people (spontaneous writers, I suppose, or Make-It-Up-As-You-Goers) who are appalled at the idea of using an outline like this. One thing it does for me is make sure that I know what the ultimate end of the story is going to be, as well as forcing me to take logical steps to get from point A to point B. If I know that I want Character X to be on Planet B during the big climactic fight, I can focus on how to get Character X there without causing them to inexplicably lose 100 IQ points (i.e., the "Dumb Down the Characters to Advance the Plot" technique). There's been at least one instance in the past where I had to completely revise a climax because I realized that, using the above example, Character X would never be stupid enough to be on Planet B once he/she/it realized that Character Y was setting up an ambush. cough...Sacrifice...cough For me, nothing is more important than maintaining the correct characterization, even if it means I have to revise the story to accomplish it.

Does that help or is it TMI?

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MaraJade001


Joined: 02 Aug 2007
Posts: 88
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
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That was great... definitely not TMI! Very Happy Thanks so much for the insight.

I'd love to hear from others as well. I find the "how to" on writing fanfic immensely interesting.

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"If I want realism and the deaths of people I care about, I can turn on the news." -Timothy Zahn
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Rigil Kent


Joined: 25 Feb 2008
Posts: 173
Location: Middle of No and Where
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So, how do you usually approach it, MJ001?

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MaraJade001


Joined: 02 Aug 2007
Posts: 88
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
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Well, it's been years since I actually wrote anything... fiction anyway. Those stories were mostly short one-shots, so I'd write those freeform. Later I would jot basic story plots down so I wouldn't forget them, but when it came to actually writing them the task seemed too daunting. And I never could get the hang of writing outlines.

When I was in school our teachers would require outlines for our short stories. But I would write the story first, then write the outline. Neutral To this day I hate writing outlines for anything!

However, your outlining is something I think I can do. Since it's bullet points instead of a levels kind of outline it should be easier for me to write my thoughts down. I'm sort of doing that now, but I never thought about adding the POV info. That should help me a lot!

Now I'll have to see if my ideas are even worthy of becoming actual stories. Wink

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"If I want realism and the deaths of people I care about, I can turn on the news." -Timothy Zahn
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Rigil Kent


Joined: 25 Feb 2008
Posts: 173
Location: Middle of No and Where
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Glad I could help. I'm always interested in seeing how other authors approach their work...

The POV info is a necessary requirement for my usual writing style. Instead of the third person omniscient style that I see a lot of fanfic authors use (you know, where the prose jumps into the mindset of everyone present in the scene), I use a really tight 3rd person limited (where the reader only gets the information that the POV character knows or learns). It's actually gotten me into trouble at times with some of my readers, though. In at least one instance, I recall getting a lot of flak for not explaining the why something happened since the POV character didn't have that kind of information.

I've tried to write freeform in the past, but it just eludes my ability.

And someday, I won't be swamped with RL and I'll be able to actually write my own SWars trilogy. Stupid school and stupid me, thinking it'd be a good idea to go back to school after all...

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