To write a fantastic story, having some kind of plan or map is necessary. As a writer, I always remind myself to not underestimate these bits that make my writing journey easy and organised. Even if you don’t outline usually or haven’t tried it before, the process of outline is not rocket science.
There are many ways to outline a story. Some are complex and detailed enough that it feels like you are writing your first draft. But some can be so simple as writing just one sentence about the entire book. And since everyone is different, they have different preferences.
In this blog post, I have mentioned the basic form of outline that I use while drafting. This method is easily suitable for several genres. So let’s dive in!
Commencement will be the starting point of your story. Most writers take an introduction approach in the starting chapter/chapters. The major focus is on introducing your story and characters to the readers in the most engaging way possible. If you write your story in a starting-middle-ending order, this will be the first step.
To outline your story’s starting, make a list of things you want your readers to know immediately as they read. Here’s the list of things you need to note down for the commencement:
- The scenes to start your story that will captivate your readers.
- The characters (usually the main characters) to narrate your story.
- The setting/atmosphere of the overall plot.
Other things that you need to make clear are:
- What genre and subgenre is your story set in?
- What is the point of view in your story?
- The target word count.
This simple commencement outline is helpful in removing the hurdles that you might have when you start your story. The starting of story needs to be interesting enough not just for the readers but for you too. If you don’t enjoy writing your starting, then you won’t be motivated to finish it.
2. Call To Action
As the name itself suggests. In this step of the outline, you will write all the call-to-action steps concerning the conflict of your story. And who will take those steps for what reason? Call-to-action ensures that the activeness of your characters and plot don’t fall flat.
Most common way to use this in your story is after the starting. What should a good call-to-action suffice?
- The action must show the result of the call or desire of the characters. (the result can be positive or negative depending on the morals of the “call’.)
- The call-to-action at the beginning of the story must start the main plot immediately.
- The call-to-action at the ending of the story should close the main plot or bloom a new plot if it’s a series.
While writing the outline of the call-to-action, you will note all the active plot turns or character decision changes that effect their actions.
Writing the outline of the changes starts at the threshold of no return. There will be a lot of changes in a fantastically written book. Some good and some bad. Changes keep the readers on their toes. You won’t be able to note every change in your story as they mostly come with your first draft and plot hole fixing. But here are some major changes you should write in the outline to avoid writer’s block:
- Change after the starting call-to-action.
- After the top action of the story.
- The character’s personality because of the action.
You can also note down the change of simmering down moments and the affect of the major loss.
In this step of the outline, you will write the list or summary about facing the main quest. The entire story until this point was a buildup for the confrontation of the main characters, or the protagonist.
While writing the outline for the confrontation, you need to separate the emotional confrontation from physical confrontation. For your characters to develop properly and for your plot to evolve naturally, there needs to be some kind of action or confrontation in the story. It can be at one point in your story or scattered throughout.
Some of the confrontations to give you an idea to outline them:
- Characters accepting their fears.
- Characters facing their fears.
- Confronting the betrayals.
- Mentally acceptance of the fundamental conflict of the story after denying it constantly.
- Facing the consequences of the decisions your characters made.
- Finally, coming with the terms that losing and winning are of half chances.
- Confronting the main conflict of the plot.
This is the point because of the which the story was actually written. Most writers have a major conflict around which the story is woven and the characters are born. All the hell looses in the climax part of the book.
In short words, the climax is the prophecy of the writer that the story and characters are unaware of (unless there really is a prophecy about it in the story). Even if you are not sure of it right now or you think it might change as you go on with your draft. Having an outline of the climax gives you a confident to go on with your writing.
Sometimes, you will write the entire day and while you should be happy for being productive, you will think ‘where am I going with this?’. This is where the outline comes into play to reduce your anxiety. You will never feel lost regarding the plot. And if you do go out of the track, you will always be aware to go back to it or deciding to give this new and unknown path a try.
In the conclusion, you will outline all the elements of your ending. And not just the fact if it is a happy ending or a sad ending.
Your conclusion will act as glue to have your storyline and subplots stick together. It is like wrapping up your stuff after a long day of work. No matter how exhausting, it feels good in a bittersweet way.
Note down what kind of resolution happened between your protagonist and antagonist. Show your readers what kind of ending it is. And if it is a series, then what will come next?
No matter what kind of writer you are, having some kind of base will give you courage to build a castle over it then having nothing at all. An outline might not be the part of your book, but should be a part of your writing process so that you have something to rely on. Whatever you decide to do, just remember that it is your story. And everything is a ‘should’ unless you want it to be a ‘must’.