1. JohnnyNeutron

    JohnnyNeutron New Member

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    Question regarding “The One-Page Novel Plot Outline” by Derek Murphy@Creativindie

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by JohnnyNeutron, Apr 9, 2020.

    The One-Page Novel Plot Outline by Derek Murphy (https://www.creativindie.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/plot-outline.pdf) looks like an excellent tool for a plot & structure-nooby-wannabe-writer-type-person like myself. But there is something I’m confused by. Doc Murphy breaks his outline template into 25 chapters, but he places the eight main plot-points as bullets between numbered chapters. For instance,

    6) Pull Out Rug
    # ACT II: 1st PLOT POINT (Point of No Return)
    7) Enemies & Allies

    So, where does the 1st Plot-Point scene go? Should it be the last scene in Chapter 6 Pull Out Rug at the end of ACT 1, or is it the first scene in Chapter 7 Enemies & Allies at the beginning of ACT 2? (I am aware that there’ll probably be many more than 25 chapters in my book, I know the Doc is using these 25 as key story chapters, not the only chapters)

    Everything I’ve read, thus far, makes it clear that the 1st Plot-Point scene should be the last scene in ACT 1, but Doc Murphy seems to suggest that it belongs as the first scene in ACT 2.

    I have the same question regarding the other seven main plot points as well.

    I’m probably splitting hairs here, but I’m kind of a stickler for details. If my question is annoying, just let me know, I’m old and have rhino-hide thick skin. Peace.

    – The Freshman
     
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  2. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Gosh. I took a look at your link here, and came away feeling quite overwhelmed. While there are some good, useful points made, I'm not sure that adhering to all of them in strict order is going to produce diverse, entertaining, or meaningful stories.

    I think being aware of these issues he raises is more important than following his blueprint.

    For example, the three opener notions are good, in that they all imply there will be some sort of change impending. The one thing people expect, with any opener, is that things are going to change—otherwise there is no story. Even if things eventually return to where they started, there will have been a lot happening that will have changed the characters in the meantime. So these points are valuable to think about. But don't let concern about getting them precisely right keep you from moving on. So many new writers get hung up on creating perfection from the get-go—and they rarely finish their stories. You will see this dilemma presented many many times on this forum. You can correct problems later on. Just keep writing.

    Another point Derek makes—the notion that all the main characters should appear fairly early on—is also useful to consider. It's a question that gets asked frequently on the forum. Is it okay if I introduce the ...antagonist, main character, love interest, etc ...halfway through the book? The answer is usually no, although nothing in fiction is carved in stone. But it's an issue to be aware of. People usually want to meet all the major players fairly early on. If you're going to do something different, and bring a main player in later on, see if you can set it up so the reader is prepared for when it happens. Otherwise it can feel a bit like cheating.

    But all those precise stages that the characters must go through, according to Derek Murphy? I think if you attempt to follow these to the letter, you're going to end up with a very stiff (and probably predictible) storyline.

    If something feels out of place to you, in this outline—as you've articulated—I'd say go with your instincts. Derek Murphy isn't the ultimate storytelling guru. (In fact I've never even heard of him before.) He's just one of many writing instructors offering advice, and this is just a particular blueprint he's devised.

    Be careful about following precise 'instructions' when you're doing creative writing. Instead, write what YOU want to write—the kind of story you like to read. Don't worry so much about ticking boxes as prescribed by Derek Murphy or anybody else. Keep the issues they raise in the back of your mind, but don't use them as 'musts' or 'must nots.'

    In fact, I'd say avoid worry altogether WHILE you write. As you write, discover a story flow that works for you. Bring the story to life. Don't try to go too fast. Include details, descriptions, feelings, thoughts, actions, reactions, consequences, etc. Let your characters evolve. Let them say things and behave in a way that seems natural to them. Don't worry about over-writing or going off on tangents or letting a good character take over and destroy your original plot ideas. This is where you can happily over-write. Unnecessary stuff can easily be pared back later, but it's difficult to inject enthusiasm and richness into a story AFTER you've written it. Spend time envisioning your scenes, playing out conversations and actions in your head until they feel right ...until they are a movie you're watching in your head. In detail.

    I'd say don't get hung up on ticking off 'plot points,' because that can lead you to just jumping from one to the other, without fleshing them out. It can also lead you to creating minimalistic wooden characters and overly contrived situations, just to fulfill the plot point requirements.

    Later on, when you're all done, you can look at your story structure with fresh eyes and decide what's worth keeping, what to change, what to rearrange, and what to get rid of.

    That's my feeling about this issue, anyway. Don't get hung up on this outline.

    ............

    I find it helpful to ask myself, at the start of every scene, 'what do I want this scene to accomplish?' That helps to direct the flow of the scene, without being too rigid. Examples:

    I want the POV character to discover something unusual about his past.
    I want the reader to realise the POV character is falling in love.
    I want to show that Character X has fallen in love with the POV character, but that he's not aware of this yet
    I want the POV character to finally meet the one person he can't intimidate.
    I want the reader to realise why the POV character cares so much for his home.

    Once I've articulated what I want the scene to accomplish, it makes it easier to write. And then the next scene will build from that.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2020
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  3. JohnnyNeutron

    JohnnyNeutron New Member

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    Thank you jannert, this is just the kind of advice I need to be listening to.

    For me the biggest struggle with creative writing is how my career choice has messed with my brain. For decades I've made my bacon as a nuclear reactor operator. It may seem like an interesting job, but it's actually very robotic in the sense that everything I do do is either a mathematical calculation or a procedure driven activity that is devoid of any free thought. As a result I've become very proscriptive in all of my life activities, including writing. I'm drawn to the procedural nature of structured story plotting and the efficiency it provides. However, in the pursuit of a tightly structured process I run the risk of producing a properly structured, fictional technical journal rather than a compelling story.

    I will probably always be a plotter. The first books I read on how to write fiction were Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. These books resonated with me because of my penchant for structure & process. But, I know I must find a way to balance my creative mind with a functional process to prevent myself from scrawling out soulless material. It is the type of advice you offer that can help me with this, so I will listen, and I thank you. .
     
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  4. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I sympathise. I spent many years doing expository writing, where a specific point always had to be made and proved, etc. Usually in three steps, followed by a conclusion. It was very weird making the switch to pure creative writing.

    For me, it helped to have a favourite author (in terms of style.) I made the deliberate attempt to write my own story (which is unlike any of hers in terms of plot and character) but in her novelist's 'voice' and style. Once I made that decision, I just let 'er rip. I told myself that I would NOT show my writing to ANYBODY until I felt happy with it. In fact, for a long time I didn't tell anybody I was writing at all. I also made the decision that I wasn't writing with the brakes on. I would write whatever I wanted to.

    I also took a decision to pretend to be telling the story to my sister. When we were children, I used to tell her stories all the time, and she was always enthusiastic ...to the point of waking me up in the middle of the night to find out 'what happened next.' I thought ...well, why not tell THIS story to my sister as well? So the style of my favourite author gave me an initial voice, and my sister was the intended audience. I think this worked really well. (And yes, she did love the story, once I'd finished it and gave it to her.) :)

    There are lots of tricks.

    Here's another one which might really help you. As you think about your story, you might have a particular scene that you've been able to imagine in a lot of detail. Write it. Don't worry about where it comes in the story. Just write THAT scene. Don't worry about explaining how anybody in the scene got there, or worry about backstory. Just get that scene written.

    I guarantee when you've done that, other scenes will also occur to you. Maybe ones that came earlier, or the ones that follow. Write them as well. Sooner or later, you'll figure out how they all fit together and you can start writing the rest of your story in a more linear fashion. But by then, your characters will have come to life. Some of the conflicts or issues will be out in the open. How your characters interact will be there. What they look like and how they behave will be there. And the setting may well also have become real.

    The one thing I did NOT do was read any 'how-to' books before I started. I just wrote. I made lots of mistakes, of course ...not grammatical/spelling/punctuation ones, but structural ones, stylistic ones, etc. These were all corrected over time—and I now have an entire bookshelf filled with 'how to' books. But this meant I was initially writing without fear.

    I didn't have anybody—real or imagined—looking over my shoulder and criticising what I did. In that sense, my enthusiasm for my story remained undiminished throughout the process. I don't think you can add in that kind of enthusiasm, once you've written something that's overly structured and maybe badgered to death. The enthusiasm should come first, not as an afterthought. In my opinion, anyway.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2020
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  5. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    as someone who's written 8 novels and first drafts of about the same again, i treat these "you must write your novel this way or die" templates with deep suspicion.

    one size doesn't fit all and the you must have rising action in chapter x, with the attack of the antagonist in the second act... blah de blah is to be frank, nonsense

    I suggest if you want to plot that you write down a list of what you want your story to do ( I say if, because its not compulsory - i pants and it works fine for me)
     
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