Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Outline: Happy Outline - Happy Writing

     Every great writer has done one great thing in common: The Outline.  Da-da-dah!  It's actually the single best thing you could do before actually writing the first page of your best story.  Though you may not use it word for word, it will definitely organize your thoughts, ideas and the overall sequencing of your story.  Often, many writers begin to write their first page before ever structuring their ideas.  This can result in discouragement and an inability to move passed that first page.  The first page, after all, is the most challenging page in creating a masterpiece.  Without an outline, the finished first page could read rusty, rushed and unrealistic. Whether writing a short story, non-fiction or fictional book, the outline offers confidence in planning a smooth and dynamic introduction, middle and conclusion.  How can this outline be employed you ask?  Actually, even a diner's napkin will do.
   Start out by writing in the main idea or theme for your story.  After that, put in the setting, then plot, and then conflict.  Finally, throw in some of your character's names or character types and their place in your book.  From there, you've already established the concept, the conflicts and character design for your story.  Jot down some possible starters for your prologue, intro or first chapter.  What is the setting?  What is the purpose of this chapter?  How would you see this chapter ending?  In some cases, a writer can create the introduction, the middle and then proposed ending to the story on a piece of construction paper, a napkin or a notebook.  Jot down your ideas.  That's an outline--a basic brainstorm that can make your idea tame into a realistic and complex story.  Here's an example:

Proposed Title: The Seven Archers (short story)

Theme/Big Idea: Seven archers become deserters from a state that demands they slay innocent villagers for a corrupt king, making them controversial heroes throughout the land.

Main characters: Captain Alexon, six other archers ------, corrupt count, revolutionary leader, ?

Intro: Count orders captain archer to assemble a secret force to destroy a village of "traitors and conspirers," but he knows that the count is corrupt and is trying to eliminate political rivals and a looming revolution.

Middle: His six archers decide to help him and they all leave the state to find better lives in another place in the kingdom, (perhaps lead a revolution against the count?)

Ending: Archers lead a rebellion of others outside of the state to dethrone the count, helping to fuel a revolution and install a new leader.

(In count's court, Captain Alexon comes to kneel before Count Callous, the count reveals the secret mission to him, Alexon knows his corruption and does not want to kill innocent people, agrees to carry out the task, but then assembles other archers who are willing to leave the evil count's service and warn the village, etc.)

-Hey, its a start.  Now I can begin writing my work with some guidelines to help the flow. 


The seedy township of Callos had always been quite the popular place for seedy souls.  For hundreds of years, the people in the southwestern realm had lost their will for goodwill.  Yet, one noble man, out of so few, was bred in a rather different light.  Captain Alexon waited in the antechamber for his turn to talk to the count in the throne room.  He was not sure why Count Callus called for him, but he was never optimistic about it.

Captain Alexon was an esteemed leader of one of the archer divisions in Callos.  There was hardly anyone that disrespected him in any way.  Brave and selfless, the captain was an admired veteran in Callos’s army.  Many described him as being of average stature with hazel eyes, a sharp nose, pointed ears, a handsome smile and a face almost always hosting stubble.  Captain Alexon was in his late thirties—a decent age for experienced military leaders. 

The door to the count’s room opened up and a guard met the captain in the antechamber with a reverent grin.  After shaking hands, the captain entered the crowded throne room.  The place was always crowded with the royally bigheaded—all cocky fools who serve the count blindly for their own rewards.  They cared almost nothing for the township at all.  It was always the same.  Alexon walked through the hall and nodded humbly at his superiors, though he really cursed them inside. ...

Happy Outline - Happy Writing!!!

Your friendly neighborhood author,

-David V. Mammina