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The idea has arrived and it’s beautiful. You know this is the one, the idea that will transform fiction writing, film production and theatre. You are twitching to put pen to paper and get cracking with the great British/American/Australian novel. Before your keyboard is reduced to a charred and tangled mess by the ferocity of your typing you still need to test your idea to ensure it will have the staying power that you are sure it will have.
When I have those moments of blind panic as I stare blankly at the screen, wondering how my main character has run out of things to say and do, the idea for the story is pathetic and my anti-hero has decided he/she wants to be fucking nice, then I wished i’d taken my own advice and scribbled a few bullet points down first. Outlining gives you the time to take a breathe after the first rush of enthusiasm and excitement is falling away. It forces you to ask a few questions about your idea and honestly decide if it is any good. Not just any good as an idea for a novel, a short story or flash fiction, but whether it is worthy of your time and effort at all. Some idea’s will appear to be great and will be amazing. Others appear at first glance to be fantastic, but are in reality shit.
I can only describe what I do when I scribble an outline down and how I think it through. Here goes:
In each section I just write a few lines; enough to remind me how I wanted the story to flow and to help identify if there is enough there. By now I also know who I am planning on writing for, their age group, gender and the planned genre of my story. However the best laid plans of mice and men…
How you want the story to open? This section sets out how you see your stories opening and how you see the beginning shaping the rest of the story. Do you start from the beginning? From the end with the remainder of the story going back in time to set out how you get to your opening pages? In the middle of the action, thrown in at the deep end? Your choice, make it.
These sections are the meat of your story, where you develop your characters, bring in other story lines that complement the main flow of the story. You can cleverly introduce character back stories, introduce some red herrings, some twists and turns. These sections are where you can have a lot of fun. Don’t forget to keep your eye on the end – that’s what you are building towards.
This is my favourite part. you’ve chosen how you want to begin your story, you have developed the story and the characters keeping an eye on the final part and now you show how inventive you have been. The twists and turns that will keep your readers intrigued until the end. You can make your ending as lively or as intense as you want, it’s your story.
These three sections will go a long way towards helping you decide how you want to structure your story and what format you would like it to take.