October 22, 2010

One Way to Outline Your Story for NaNoWriMo

I'm currently flipping back and forth on whether to do NaNoWriMo or not. I'm chugging along in my current work in progress (Sex, Drugs, and Steamwork), but I'm not finished. At any rate, my playwriting class has given me a unique way of looking at the structure of a story.

Before I begin, I will discuss the Six Elements of Aristole's theory on drama. This is primarily for playwriting, but I'll try to express what I think the literary equivalents are. I don't think I'm necessarily "qualified" to do this, but I am studying the stuff, so it does help to see how certain forms of the medium can be translated into fiction writing, which is what I typically work with.

So, Artistotle proposed in order for drama to work, it must include these six things:

For the purposes of fiction writing, I believe that spectacle would be the hook in someways. For something like Harry Potter, the spectacle/hook would be the magic. I think, the spectacle in the novel is the one thing that carries through it. In playwriting, spectacle is what is seen on the stage and the author of the book we're reading for class (The Art and Craft of Playwriting by Jeffrey Hatcher) states that it's whatever looks neat onstage. In the case of a novel, I believe, the constant thing that is the cool undercurrent of the book. In the case of Harry Potter, again, I believe the spectacle is magic. However, magic isn't used for everything little thing, but without it, you lose the "Harriness" of it all.

Music refers to sound effects. In novels, this could be extended to sensory information such as touch, smell, taste, sight, and sound.

Now on to the outline. I'm going to use the first Hunger Games book as an example. (contains spoilers for the first book, but not the other two)

Character: Katniss Everdeen
Want/Goal: To protect herself and her family.
Antagonist and/or conflicting forces: The Capitol and more directly, the Gamemakers and the Hunger Games.

Part 1: Beginning. This should happen ideally in the first few chapters of your novel.
Inciting Incident: Katniss's little sister, Prim, despite all odds, is called into the Hunger Games. (The inciting incident is the event that pushes the character to action.)
Initial point of attack: Katniss volunteers to go in her sister's place. (The Initial Point of Attack is the action that your character takes in response to the inciting incident.
Major Dramatic Question: Will Katniss survive the Hunger Games? (Major Dramatic Question or MDQ refers to the dramatic moment of the story, what the story is hinged on. Think of it as the dun dun DUNN! moment)

Part 2: Middle
Character embarks on struggle/search for answers/goals: Katniss struggles to survive the Games. (this refers to what your character has to deal with in order to achieve their goal)
Conflicts: Katniss has to deal with the games themselves, faking a romantic relationship with Peeta to get sponsors, hunger, trackerjacker stings, the other players...etc (these are the obstacles that prevent your character from achieving their goal.)
Crisis: I think things get really bad when Rue dies. If the stakes weren't high enough before, they are now.Also when Peeta goes missing. (the Oh Snap! moment, past the point of no return...etc, the moment when the character has come too far to turn back
Action that leads to conclusion: Katniss dedicates her energy to saving Peeta. (what steps does the character take in response to the crisis)

Part 3: Conclusion
Final Conflict: After everything is said and done, there are only two tributes left: Katniss and Peeta. Both take attempt to take the nightlock to avoid fighting each other. (This is the climax of the novel, the peak of the action)
Character's goals achieved or lost: Katniss achieved her goal, first by surviving the Games, and secondly by providing her family with shelter and stability. (this is the resolution. Has the hero achieved their goals?)
New order: Katniss and her family move to Victor's Village after winning the games. Katniss is now a political target for The Capitol. (This is what happens after everything is over, the denouement.)

Spectacle: The Hunger Games themselves. (remember this is the hook.)

I hope this diagram helps. I'm going to post my own diagram and a blank one for you to enjoy.

Do you have an outlining and plotting ideas or templates? 
Share in the comments!

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for this! I will NOT take part in NaNoWriMon, as I am working on a story and want to continue that. Otherwise, I think it's a great idea, and I will try to write more than I am now.

I haven't really got any good ideas on the meta elements of a good story, so your list and outline will certainly be useful.

But mainly, I'll just write, write, write in NaNoWriMo style and not worry too much about it all. A bit of planning would be handy, though!

Good luck in case you will take part.

Najela said...

I'm thinking I probably shouldn't or at the very least write my current WiP at NaNo like speed.

I'm not really a good plotter either. I tried to use it, but I don't think it is for me. That being said, when I finish my novel I might use this to stay on track for revisions and cut all the stuff that doesn't follow this.

Good luck on your WiP as well. =)


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