Friday, May 31, 2013

THE POWER OF AN OUTLINE GRID

 
Picturing all the details of a whole book in my head is beyond my spatial capacities so I recently made a big new outline grid that I can tape on to the wall in front of me like William Faulkner does here.
Being a visual person, I need to see the book before I can write it. I especially need to see the spots where stuff must happen, according to the experts. Stuff like:
  • the inciting incident, 
  • the trigger,
  • the quest,
  • the surprise,
  • the first plot point,
  • the mid point, 
  • the critical choice, 
  • the second plot point, 
  • the climax, 
  • the dénoument,
  • the resolution. 
  • And all the points of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey 
Seeing the exact placement of plot points makes writing so much easier and quicker. Words don’t just disappear into the dark maw of the hard drive. I don't need to spend hours straining to remember what happens when and wondering if I've repeated myself. Characters' actions can be more easily crafted to justify their goals and ambitions. Obstacles can be timed to show up just when the protagonist is feeling cocky, rewards can be more precisely dangled to keep him or her going.  
A plot laid out on paper lets you construct chapters  more meticulously, accelerate arcs more smoothly, escalate events more gradually, build suspense step by step, make disasters and catastrophes happen more unexpectedly, boom, and make triumph and victory more nuanced.
Like drawing with words.
An outline grid is very empowering.                                     
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