Writers are never short on ideas, but oftentimes we have trouble sorting them out and getting them down on the page. It can be daunting, especially when you have a complex concept or world that has to be built, but it’s useful to know that you’re not the only one facing this issue. As such, there have been many methods devised to help you better organize your story ideas and punch that first road block right in the face. One such is the outline.
First, if you don’t already know the structure of a story, I’d check this article out: Plotting Methods for Meticulous Plotters
There are a TON of ways to handle an outline, and everyone has their own methods. I don’t usually link the Daily Mail, but here’s an article they did showing some outlines belonging to famous authors to give you an idea of the variations. I’m going to be covering a more standard format in this section.
Outlines are useful for organizing the time line of events in your story as well as keeping track of multiple character arcs. You can be as detailed, or as brief, as you need to be with your outline, since you’re going to be using it as the skeleton for your story. Nothing you write for your outline is set in stone. Expect it to change because stories evolve as you build them. I recommend typing outlines for easy editing at a later point.
I normally set up outlines like this:
Character (Since I have more than one POV.)
Idea for how the chapter opens, what the focus character is doing.
Details, which will include a description of what happens next, how my character feels about the situation, maybe a line of dialogue I thought of, a piece of imagery I want to use, a question if this particular item is appropriate for the scene or better served elsewhere, a concept idea, a note about how this plot line may or may not work later, etc. It is always easier to move a story element in an outline than it is in the actual draft.
Continue listing what happens
Next, taking up as much space and as many bullet points as you need. Use a new bullet point when you have a new idea, or a new action or event. My outlines for chapters tend to be a page or more, as I’m very specific.
If you only have a general idea of what’s going in a section, or you’ve dug yourself into a plot hole that you can’t fix right now, make a note and come back to it later. You may find as you progress in your outline that you will come up with an acceptable answer to your stuck point working on a later chapter.
How the chapter ends. It should lead into the next chapter.
If you want to track character arcs, you can highlight or color-code your text for specific characters throughout the outline so you can see their progression through the overall narrative. I also tend to make note of how I want this character to change by the end of the book if necessary.
My outlines, when I actually do them, tend to go on for a while. The last time I did one the document was around 20 pages or so. This, of course, may be way too much detail for some of you, so feel free to slim down.
Bare Bones Outline:
Chapter 1 (Title, if applicable)
Main character bites into sandwich. The act of doing so transports him into a different realm.
He falls out of the sky and onto a funeral precession.
Disoriented, he is attacked by the precession’s guards while being shouted at by the mourners.
Our hero runs away, still having no clue what’s going on. He flees into the woods.
He ends up stumbling around, nearly crashing into trees, and eventually runs into what looks like a rock. However, the rock moves and turns to reveal it’s some sort of creature.
End chapter on main character staring at the angry, dripping maw of the beast.
This example shows you the main points of the chapter, the focus character, his possible conflict, and an end point that leads you right into the next chapter.
Bulleted lists work the best for me as far as formatting goes, but feel free to use standard numbers, arrows, or Roman numerals if that suits you best.
Some people like to use specific programs for outlining. I use OpenOffice (or Microsoft Office, but I’m cheap), though others exist:
- Microsoft One Note (usually comes with new Windows PCs).
- Omni Outliner (Mac OS).
- Free Mind (not a traditional outline and is instead a visual mapping tool).
- Redhaven Outline.
- Excel or Google Docs (for spreadsheets).
Writing with Color has received several asks on this topic.
Everything from “how do I describe my character’s skin tone without being offensive?” and “what’s the problem with comparing my character to chocolate and coffee?”
I’m hoping to address all these and likewise questions in this guide on describing POC skin color, from light, dark and all that’s in between.
The Food Thing: So what’s the big deal?
So exactly what is the problem with comparing POC skin tone to cocoa, coffee, caramel, brown sugar and other sweets and goods? Well, there’s several potential problems you come across when you pull out the old Hershey’s bar comparison for your dark-skinned character, even if offense is not your intention.
"Look, I’ll level with you. Nothing I’m saying here is particularly new or insightful. Many ground-breakers have been making this argument for years, from the wonderful Reel Girl to the Geena Davis Institute to Pig Tail Pals to Princess Free Zone and many, many more writers and thinkers I admire.
But I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines. I’m tired of silently nodding my head in agreement to their great arguments for gender equality in movies and pop culture, and I’m really, really tired of seeing the reactions they get from mouth-breathing hordes of sexist gas bags, when really all they want to do is empower our girls and tell our boys that girls have worth, that they’re not just objects to be won, or killed if they reject you.
Yes, seriously, that’s the end game.
That’s why arguments like this are important.”
10 Tips for Editing Other People’s Writing
Here are ten tips for a positive, productive critiquing experience:
1. Tolerate the Task
When you write, you don’t have to be an aficionado or expert to produce an article or a story on a given topic….
On Tuesday, we looked at the basics of point of view; but there’s far more to it than simply choosing between 1st, 2nd and 3rd POVs.
The POV choice you make for your story will be based on a number of different factors, and will result in a number of different effects. It’s an…
You should check out my wounds tag.
Here are some things on pulling muscles
- Treatment of a Pulled Muscle
- How to Tell If You Pulled a Muscle
- Signs & Symptoms of a Pulled Muscle in the Arm
- Pulled Back Muscle & Lower Back Strain
- Writing Reference: Sprains & Strains
As for accidental cuts, scratches, and things like that, the pain is usually minor but initial shock tends to exaggerate what you feel. Typically, you don’t have much to worry about these types of injuries other than perhaps infection, which can be avoided with putting rubbing alcohol or peroxide (peroxide usually does not sting/burn) onto the wound. Bleeding is usually minimal.
Here are some things on writing about pain
Okay, you know how hard it is to make those side characters in your writing? There is a website that allows you to create different random identities for all types of characters.
This website literally generates an identity for a fictitious person and makes up the full name of the person, address, maiden name, birthday, blood type, weight, height… and they give it personality - favorite color, website, vehicle, job/occupation, company…
This site is literally amazing if you want to create a random character but you don’t know what to name him/her or you don’t know how to portray them.
You just enter the gender, name set, and the country and hit generate. That’s it. (And yes, you can have Hobbit, Klingon, and Ninja names.)
Here are a few examples:
okay, I hope this helps someone! :) I know it helped me…