With September comes a new year of North York Writers and a fresh start from the dozy summer to put those pens on paper or fingertips on keyboard, and already have an idea to burst forth on that whitespace.
But hold on a sec, because if you’re like me, this often means staring at a empty word doc for hours. Solution? Have a story outline.
Now I’m all for a writing splurge, where the story writes itself based on a kernel of inspiration. However splurges are as rare as the famous actor bragging of how he got from rags to riches and the entire server sector in California comprising of unemployed actors is you staring at the screen for 15 minutes before catching up on Game of Thrones. You don’t have to be Dean Koontz, but just making sure you have some basic info about your story before you write can do wonders. Not all these points are necessary but just think of it like Chinese medicine: you’re not sure if it works, but it can’t hurt.
- Protagonist (Name & Motivation): Every story plot can be summed up as: Protagonist strives for something, antagonist tries to stop them. I wrote about how to characterize a protagonist but having your protagonist’s motivation is the engine driving the story forward.
- Antagonist (Name & Motivation): If you already caught on, yes knowing who/what your antagonist is will do a lot to make sure your protagonist isn’t just gaily dancing through the meadows because their life is to horrifically perfect. Define why your antagonist wants to stop your protagonist, to create some complexity and so your story is not black and white.
- Theme (one, two words): Theme is usually found through writing out your story, but if you have your protagonist ready, having one or two words on what you expect your story to be about does not set your story in stone, but it will at least give you a roughish direction of where the finish line is when the starting gun fires.
- Setting (Time, Location): Unless you want your characters to hang around a whitespace (though that may be a great story idea) you are going to need a setting. The easiest cop-out is just setting your story for right now, and located just outside your window. That’s fine, but at least know some locations you want your protagonist to interact in.
- Plot (Ending): If you believe just creating a really strong character, a setting, and a problem is enough to start writing then good for you, but if you’re the kind of person who finds this article useful, then at least having some vague idea of what the fate of your protagonist might be, will make it easier for you to figure out how your protagonist will navigate through the story.
A barebones outline like this should barely cover half-page and a couple minutes of your time, so give it a shot, and see what you come up with.
By Joshua, A North York Writer