Monday, March 16, 2015

Perils of the Writer: Going From Outline to Novel

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.
The 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 protagonist.
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.
9. Recovery – 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.
11. Confrontation – Goes after main antagonist/obstacle, partly to reclaim investment.
12. Resolution – Defeat of main antagonist/obstacle, which can create a new base situation or re-establish stability of original one.
Creating the outline involves writing out about 100-250 words for each of these sections, resulting in about 1500 to 2000 words for the outline. 
Of 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.

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