Saturday, May 26, 2012

Spell It Out For Me: How to Outline Your Stories

Does anyone here hate to outline their stories? *looks to audience, counts dozens of hands, sighs, and then launches into lecture* Okay, yes, outlines are boring, tedious, time-consuming, and it feels like they kill the creative spark, dousing that fire of literary aspiration before it even has a chance.

Considering all of that, why would you ever want to use an outline? I have given several good reasons in the post below this one, but I'll give one great reason right here: an outline assures that your story has a goal.

While that might not seem all that important when you're furiously scribbling down a brilliant first chapter, eventually inspiration will slow down (due to the need to eat, sleep, or go to one's day job), and when you come back to the story, it could be difficult to recapture that creative spirit. (For those of you who have no problem with this, please share your secret.) For the rest of us, here are a few prompts that will need the next 4 to 5 scenes outlined before you start writing them. I'll provide the pitch of the story, and you write a few sentences for the first 4 or 5 scenes.

Pitch 1: Sara was having a tea party with her favorite dolls when she abruptly finds herself transported to the place she had just imagined. Her dolls are real people, and she is welcomed warmly into the family. Since she pretended that her dolls were princesses, the family in question is royal. The opportunities for fun are nearly infinite, but so are the intrigues and plots against the royal family. Will Sara be stuck in the middle?

Pitch 2: As a member of EarthForce's forward brigade, Jackson knew he would see battles and enemies that most humans couldn't imagine...but he never expected to face other humans in battle. When Jackson's expeditionary brigade lands on a newly discovered hospitable planet, they try to lay claim to it for Earth's burgeoning population, only to find that humans already live there - and they refuse to relocate. Torn between duty to his unit and his duty to humanity, Jackson struggles with whether he should follow the customary order (cleanse future colonies for the human population's arrival) or side with the humans who were there first, and know the danger of the planet well.

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