So, a few weeks ago at Connooga, I got to talk about structure and
outlining for novels, which is a thing I love talking about. Now, I'm a
big believer in the idea that there isn't any One True Way to write a
novel-- I can't tell you how you
write one; I can only show you
the tools in my toolbox, and if that helps you built your toolbox and
method, then I'm happy to have helped.
question came up how I structure and create outlines, and how that
becomes a novel. As I've mentioned before, I've got a twelve-part
structure to work out the outline. The brief version:
1. Establishment –
Show character(s) and situation.
2. Incitement –
Alteration of the status, or new information spurs protagonist out of usual comfort.
3. Challenge –
Minor antagonists/obstacles put into play.
4. Altercation –
Conflict with minor antagonists/obstacles, ends with degree of success/victory for protagonist.
5. Payback –
Consequence for victory; minor antagonists/obstacles failure brings
attention of major antagonist/obstacles, allowing a strike back at
6. Regrouping –
Protagonist reacts to the payback, possibly in an ineffective way.Thinks confrontation is over, relaxes.
7. Collapse –
Protagonist struck at in a way that threatens the stability and safety of base situation.
8. Retreat –
Protagonist must leave base situation to escape threat from main antagonist/obstacle.
– Protagonist establishes a new situation, enough to be stable and safe.
10. Investment –
Personal attachment forces Protagonist back into fray with main antagonist/obstacle—they won’t choose to walk away.
– Goes after main antagonist/obstacle, partly to reclaim investment.
– Defeat of main antagonist/obstacle, which can create a new base situation or re-establish stability of original one.
the outline involves writing out about 100-250 words for each of these
sections, resulting in about 1500 to 2000 words for the outline.
course, the real work is expanding that 1500-word document into a 100K
novel. It should be noted that the structure of the outline is almost
pure plot-- the character work isn't really in there. Writing the novel
is where that comes in, as well as working out the roles of secondary
and tertiary characters. One thing I realized after writing one of my
trunked novels was not to come up with minor characters before working
out their role in the plot. In that trunked novel I had a full
compliment of secondary characters who had no purpose other than to mill
around in the background. I came up with them early in the process
because I thought I might
need them. But I never did for most of them, and some I bent over backwards to give them a purpose.
So, when you're deep in the word mines, how do you expand outlines into the finished draft.