1. Anne Neville
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    Anne Neville New Member

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    How Can I Outline a Fantasy Story

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Anne Neville, May 8, 2016.

    I read an article on plotting that one of my friends linked, but it feels too confusing to me to use on my story, and I fear it needs some "translation". Any help would be appreciated.
     
  2. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    Basically:
    Figure out what your character's goal is, why it's important to them, and what they're willing to sacrifice to get it.
     
  3. Anne Neville
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    Anne Neville New Member

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    Could you explain the points in the articles a little better?
     
  4. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    1. Set Your Story Goal: What's the point of your story? What is your main character (from now on referred to as MC) trying to achieve? What is your story about?

    2. Consequences: What will happen to your story if the above Story Goal isn't achieved? For example, if your MC is trying to defeat a villain, what happens if your MC fails? Will the world end? Will your MC die?

    3. Requirements: What events must happen in your story to achieve the Story Goal? Using the example from above, if your MC is trying to defeat a villain, she'll likely need a plan and allies. So she'll likely have to go in search of people to help her take out the villain.

    4. Forewarnings: These are basically events that make the reader think your MC might not achieve the Story Goal. Say she goes to find allies, but they won't help her. That could be a forewarning that the villain is going to win. Say she sends an army ahead to take out the villain, but they fail. That would also be a forewarning.

    5. Costs: These are basically things your MC must sacrifice or endure to achieve the Story Goal. Say, for example, she has to leave her family behind to go find her allies. She doesn't want to leave them -- but the Story Goal is so important that she must put her own selfish wants behind her.

    6. Dividends: These are the opposite of Costs. These are the rewards your MC achieves on her journey to accomplish the Story Goal. They don't have to be related to the Story Goal -- just something that wouldn't have happened if she hadn't started this quest. When she goes to look for allies, maybe she meets a handsome mystery man. That would be considered a Dividend.

    7. Prerequisites: These are events that must happen in order for Requirements (#3) to happen. Say she has to recruit allies -- but first, she must do something for them. Rescue someone or something.

    8. Preconditions: This is basically the same as Forewarnings, just on a smaller scale. I... honestly can't think of a good example for this one.


    This is a terrible outline suggestion. Use this site instead. It gives several examples of how to outline a novel. I started with the Snowflake Method, but now I do a mix of Traditional and Synopsis.
     
  5. storystitcher
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    storystitcher Member

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    @Lea`Brooks why do you think it is a terrible outline suggestion?
     
  6. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because not every story needs all of those things to be successful. I can think of a good handful of stories right off the top of my head that don't include at least one of the last four items on the list. If I followed that site, my current story wouldn't exist. I don't have the last four things on that list either. Okay, I may inadvertently have Cost and Dividends, but I didn't plan that. It just happened.

    Sometimes it's better to just figure it out yourself, rather than forcing it into a mold. Not everyone writes, plots, or outlines the same way. So trying to fit into someone else's idea of what works may only cause frustration and lead you to quit. That happened to me. No method of outlining or plotting worked. And every time someone made a suggestion to me, that didn't work either. So I felt like a failure because I couldn't do it the way they did -- I felt like I wasn't a true writer. But then I found my own process, one I haven't had any trouble with yet, and everything became so much easier.

    "If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
     
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  7. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    That website bases itself around a model for storytelling called Dramatica. You could Google it if you were interested, but it is incredibly complex (far moreso than what's in the article you've linked) and at the end of the day it's all based on 'Wot I Reckon Makes a Good Story' (i.e. the opinion of whoever came up with it, not fact). There's a Dramatica website that actually has a lot of tutorials explaining the framework, but you should be aware that they are trying to sell software based around it all (which isn't to say that it's a scam, but there are certainly interests there other than benevolence to writers; on the flipside, you can learn plenty about it without spending a cent).

    It's basically as Lea says: if it doesn't work for you don't use it, and you'll likely meet a lot of its criteria by just writing intuitively. Rather than religiously adhering from the floor up, I would advise falling back on frameworks like these in cases where you've written yourself into a specific corner you can't get out of. Like e.g. if you're stuck trying to figure out an ending that works for the plot and brings your main theme to a satisfying conclusion. Sometimes frameworks like these can open up new lines of thinking that lead to inspiration. But I'd start with what you already have before resorting to them.

    I don't think I'd call it a 'terrible outline suggestion' - it actually does make quite a bit of sense to me - but we all have different wavelengths, and it is very technical. For what it's worth, I've incorporated some ideas of Dramatica into some of my plans, but I think I'd find it far too suffocating to follow to a tee. From what research I've done, it would still give enough freedom not to be 'paint by numbers' for writing, but it'd certainly be a step down that path.
     
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  8. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Hi Anne, there are many free resources available, as I'm sure you're aware, but 'Save the Cat' (Amazon link) by Blake Snyder is a good place to start if you want to learn about structure (it's aimed at screenwriters but the content is equally applicable to other fiction writers). It's also simple and effective.

    Echoing what's been said above, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to structure, but there are tried and tested methods, especially for commercial fiction (do a Google search for three-act structure). Then pick and choose what works for you.

    :)
     
  9. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I just summarized each chapter and broke them down into scenes. I broadly followed the three act structure, but I don't tend to dogmatically follow forms. As the others have said, find something that works for you, and don't worry about moving in lockstep with a method.
     
  10. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    Save The Cat has literally ruined screenwriting. Even Spielberg lamented the formulaic nature of recent scripts.

    You want to learn how to write? Just read and analyze what you read. They didn't have "writer manuals" in the past; if you didn't develop an instinct for storytelling, it meant you weren't going to be a storyteller.

    How long have you been writing? If you've been writing for more than, say, two or three years and you still haven't developed storytelling intuition, then maybe you should consider that you're not meant to be a fiction writer. Life's unfair like that.
     
  11. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    With the greatest respect, Michael, I disagree with everything you have said above. I'm not trying to provoke an argument by saying so. You're entitled to your opinion of course, but I think telling someone that if they can't figure it out on their own, they'll never be a writer is a bit rich.

    I'm aware that Save the Cat is controversial, but it does give a reasonable, and accessible, explanation of what three-act structure is. And using a structure to hang your story on does not mean that it must be formulaic (although of course your story may turn out formulaic if you don't have anything new to say). Was Shakespeare formulaic for writing in five acts and iambic pentameter, or Aristotle for suggesting that plots should have a beginning, middle and end?

    You say they didn't have 'writer manuals' in the past. I'm not sure how far back in the past you're referring to (pre classical Greece, I guess), so I can't comment, but there have always been writers talking to other writers and sharing tips. You don't become a writer in a vacuum.

    Would you tell someone who wanted to become a concert pianist to just listen and analyse, or would you suggest that they learn a little theory, get a good teacher, and practise like mad?
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2016
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  12. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    I'm not saying formula doesn't exist in fiction. I'm saying theory is a retrograded invention; it came after the fact. In other words, a "formula" for storytelling came about because somebody analyzed what storytellers having been doing for millenia and then codified the patterns. If you're not smart enough to do this after a decent amount of time, why should I care to read anything you write? It'll probably bore me.

    Funny thing you mentioned music. As a musician, I can tell you that the same is true with music theory. All theory, whether it describes music or storytelling or chemistry or anything else requiring theorizing, is descriptive, not prescriptive.

    But, hey. If you want to be one of those people who gives out feel-good thoughts all day, that's your prerogative, I guess. Just don't get mad when not everyone believes in handing out "A For Effort" trophies to everyone.
     
  13. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    As someone who does play music, it's rather simple to listen to a piece and begin mimicking it without knowing any of the actual notes.
     
  14. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Sure. I play too, a bit. But a concert pianist who's never studied — I'm sure there's been one at some point, maybe a few, but not many, I'd bet.

    If you've got the time to learn by analysis alone, then good luck to you, but life is short and theory often provides a shortcut.

    I don't appear to be the one who's mad.

    --------

    The OP asked for help. I thought the purpose of this community was to offer it constructively, especially to new members who might otherwise be put off by a frosty reception. Are we not all in the same boat?
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2016
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  15. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    That sort of conduct is pretty typical for that poster. Probably best to ignore him and move on, before the thread has a high speed derailment.
     
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  16. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    I'm not criticizing the OP. I know nothing about her, nor have I read anything she's written. I was only contributing a thought to the conversation.

    You're right. I'm not likely to parrot writer websites and pass them off as my own thoughts. Thinking for oneself is kinda fun, once you get the hang of it.
     
  17. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't see anyone here trying to pass off material from writer websites as their own. People have simply given methods they find helpful.
     

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