In writing your novel, where do you begin? Developing characters, theme, and that killer opening are important. After all, no story will go very far without well-rounded, believable characters. A well though out theme gives your work a certain depth and gravitas. And, who doesn’t want to hook their readers within the first few pages?
But, what about an outline? Wouldn’t it be a logical start? Who drives along an unknown route without a roadmap or GPS system? Doing so only invites winding up on a dead-end street in a dicey neighborhood at midnight.
Your GPS for writing is your outline. It takes you from point A to point B in your novel while avoiding a costly detour. The last thing you want to do is spend months creating a group of scenes only to realize they don’t really work.
So, what’s an outline? It can be as simple as a brief summary of your planned novel. Using the three act structure helps. Act I introduces the characters and conflict. Act II ramps up the tension like a run up a steep mountain trail. Act III ups the tension ever more. Think of a rocket ship shooting out of the atmosphere. Then, at the highest point, about half way through the third act, you’ve reached the climax. The problem is resolved. The hero overcomes (or not) and the villain gets his comeuppance (or maybe wins). The tension drops like a ride down a theme park water slide, and the next thing you know, you’re typing “THE END”. It’s as simple at that.
But, to get the most out of your outline you might want to learn more details about the three act structure. This involves terms like pinch point, mid point, and turning point. Also you can Google examples of the three act structure of famous movies and novels. This will give you an idea of how to start. The outline doesn’t have to be elaborate or an all-inclusive ticking off of everything that happens in your novel. But, it should contain the key points, the things that: reveal character, place your hero in increasing jeopardy, and show how the story progresses.
In my next blog I’ll review a few other ways to outline.