1. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Your preferred method of outlining a plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by TerraIncognita, Sep 24, 2011.

    I was curious what everyone's preferred method of making a plot is. I think as a writer it's important to be aware of what your strengths and weaknesses are. My strengths are character development/dialogue/anything interpersonal. Plot.. not so much. My plots tend to be aimless and I imagine part of that is just my tendency to dislike planning things a lot.

    I'm not asking for someone to write my plot for me. I'm asking what are some methods of laying out a plot that work well for you? Thanks. :)
     
  2. Alex A.
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    Alex A. Member

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    First off, I usually come up with the initial idea then I create some characters. Next, I believe I create important points the story needs to progress to and then I fill in the spaces between. Then I organize those into chapters and fill out the rest of characters. I then make a map, because those are fun (I'm a sci-fi/fantasy writer).

    However, the people and the teacher in my Craft of Fiction class agreed that they hate outlines because it ruins the fun and suspense of actually writing the story. I can relate to this because when i write, I find my self going in a direction I never prearranged heading to until I reached that point in the story. I guess some people don't really know where their going with a story until they start writing and are swayed by the current emotion of the story. I hope that made sense.

    I have also read that (paraphrase) people who do not plot outlines are amateurs and will never construct a good story without an outline. That could be from Robert McKee in Story or some internet website.

    I have started to get into the outline, but I do find that there is no excitement in writing what I know will happen. While I am vague in my outline and leave room for some minor things to go whichever way they please; i know where the main points are headed and I feel it takes out the fun sometimes.

    I support outlines though.
     
  3. Summer
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    Summer Member

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    Some people like to outline, others like to just right whatever comes. I personally prefer outlining because it is more time efficient and I don't feel like it takes away from the "discovery" or overall experience. I never write anything when I just say, "okay, sit down and write!"

    The amount of detail in outlines varies. I like a very general outline with the beginning, a couple ideas for bumps, the climax, and resolution. I make notes of any specific scenes that come to mind while writing out the outline, just so if they fit and I still like them I can incorporate them. I also keep a list of character traits, possible purposes for the characters, what kind of characters I need to feel the roles, etc. I do a lot of writing to myself (which is usually longer than my actual stories!) because it helps me keep my thought process organized. I find this helps me move forward, it doesn't mean it isn't sloppy though :)

    If you go to youtube you can find all sorts of talks about plotting. I personally like "Dan Wells on Story Structure" because he uses good examples (most people will be familiar with them: Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Matrix) and it is easy to follow without being boring. He does follow a very specific format though, which could be seen as a negative, but it probably the most popular story: "the hero's journey".
     
  4. akexodia
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    akexodia Member

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    well, my method of working it out is that, first, i decide the source (the setup and the initial stage) of the story and the the destination (how it's supposed to end). Then create the characters around whom the story will revolve...substitute myself in place of each character and see how the story would ideally flow (that, i guess is one of my innate strengths...once i place myself at a character's position, i start to visualise the surroundings very vividly!)
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't have one... much of what i write is simply written from start to finish, not needing any outline, as i have the plot in mind from the beginning, or it evolves as i go along... if something is so complex due to time gaps, subplots and such that it does need some i have no particular method or format... i simply jot down the gist of where i am and where i want to go with it... may have to do a timeline, if that's needed to keep things straight...

    i'm a firm believer in never using any formulae in writing, as that leads to a lowering of creativity, imo...
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just have a general idea of where I want the story to head and then I let it go. That's my plot at the start of each story. The hardest thing is deciding whether the characters act or react based on what just happened. The fun is saying, "Okay - then what?"
     
  7. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I typically have a general idea of what my story is about and then write a 14-scene outline from my pitch on Excel. Then when I am done, I try to find the Midpoint of my story by writing another 14-scene outline on Excel. This method typically works for me. I write screenplays though instead of novels, so I'm afraid that I can't tell you any methods of outlining a novel.
     
  8. TheSpiderJoe
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    TheSpiderJoe Senior Member

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    Yessh, I probably have the worst method here.

    Luckily, all of the main points of each of my novels have been written down (anywhere between 100 = 400 words) but the rest is all in my head. I attest this to thinking about this series for the better part of 8 years and all of the intricate scenes, details, and plot points are engraved in my brain. My fiance attests this to laziness.

    I agree with both.
     
  9. Croga
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    Croga Member

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    I outline scene by scene rather ineffectively stopping after each scene to plot the next.
    I like to know my start middle and end, but don't want my characters to be bound to actions by over planning.
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks Summer for the tips, I watched the videos you mentioned and I appreciated them too, hopefully they will help me in structuring my plot.






    yay, the thousand post! :D
     
  11. Croga
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    Croga Member

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    Following my post I watched the Dan Wells video recommended by Summer.
    Very good and very helpful I'm converted from writing the story first to planning.
     
  12. jnk1296
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    jnk1296 Member

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    It's probably not the best way to go, but I go by what some might call a sort of straitjacket method. That is, I have a 8k plot file on my computer that describes every single detail.
    I didn't plan for it to happen that way, but it did. Turned out MS Excel didn't fit my taste as much as notepad++ did! :D
     
  13. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    In my mind. Lol.

    Seriously, it's all in my mind. The whole character, protag, relationship, plot, everything's in my head.
     
  14. Smythe
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    Smythe Member

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    I find that clearly defining an end point ruins it for me - I like my process to be organic. If I know what's coming as the writer, then I'm not inspired to finish it - it's kind of already finished in my head - so I say 'this is the final goal' and draw a not-so-straight line between it, and my starting point. It won't be beleivable if the characters can't evolve by themselves
     
  15. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    I usually write down the scenes I see when I sleep, put them into a semi-logical order, and create the plot from there. Then I hide it somewhere and get back to writing, and look back at it every now and then.

    Then I write another one. Its quite entertaining to see how the two outlines compare.
     
  16. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Usually what I do is I start with a basic idea and a climactic point in the story. I don't know if this is how other people approach writing, but usually the ideas I'll get are somewhere a long the lines of "ok, in this story the guy joins a poker tournament and the climactic moment would be when he's heads up against some rival of his" or something to that effect. And then after that I just fill in events to get from A to B to C and so on. The result is usually a basic outline... probably like 2 sentences of whats going to happen in each scene. And then I just kind of wing it and things tend to work out.
     
  17. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Thanks for all the tips guys. :) I will check out those videos, Summer.

    Mamammaia, I agree. I am very careful when I make characters because I think getting too detailed can definitely stunt their growth.

    I'm not an overly structured person so the idea of having an organized plot can be a bit elusive for me. I'm the type of person that will try to build a set of shelves without really looking at the instructions. My writing is typically done in bits and pieces that I later fit together so I think even a vague outline of the plot would help keep me on track.
     
  18. echughtai
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    echughtai New Member

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    I start off creating a mind map or spider diagram and then i briefly outline the plot roughly and then go from there. I find that i prefer to makeup the plot as go along too I can't always stick to the same idea.
     
  19. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't outline. I think I work more the way a sculptor works with marble. You get a big piece of marble and chisel away the material that isn't part of your sculpture. Except, as a writer, I have to generate my own marble. So I start writing scenes involving my characters, letting them do whatever they want, including all kinds of ideas. I wind up with a pile of pages, and somewhere in that pile there's a story. I then start chiseling away the material that doesn't belong until I have a coherent story. I may have to write some extra stuff to fill in gaps, but that's ok.

    This is not, of course, the most efficient way to work. But writing the material that doesn't make it into the story is not a waste of time. First, it's fun. Second, it's writing practice. Third, it teaches me more about my characters and their environment than I could ever have learned otherwise.
     
  20. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    After I finish writting a scene I add it to my outline. I make my to-do list the same way. :) My story is all in my head. My outline is simply a way to effectively find a scene and a way for me to visually remember where I've been.
     
  21. foosicle
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    foosicle Member

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    Recently, my methodology was to detail out 3 characters, each with their own storyline.
    My initial framework came in the form of highly detailing the characters
    (breathing life into them before they take their 'first step'), then I abstractly built in three plot twists to write around.

    Not sure it matters much, but my stories end up in graphic novels/comics. The whole process took 3 hours...but could be extended for more infrastructure.
     
  22. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Thanks for all the replies guys. :) Not to resurrect a dead thread. Just haven't been around in a while and I'd like to say thanks. :)
     

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