Thor's Thoughts: The On-The-Fly Outline

Good day, friends. I, like my fellow YAvengers have been anxiously awaiting the coming excitement of NaNoWriMo, and hope you have found great strength in the topics covered thus far this month.

Today I wish to share with you an outlining technique which has served me well many times. I learned it from a great man named Dan Wells, who goes over it in detail in five videos on the Tube of You. He calls it the Seven-Point Story Structure.

It can be altered for "Plotters" or "Pantsers," it can be used as-is or expanded upon. Seeing how we are near the end of October, and the days of drafting will soon be upon us, this post will be especially useful to those who have decided last-minute that they want to participate. To you late-comers I say, find your story seed, and follow me.

First, there are some terms you'll need to be familiar with:

Hook: Setting the story. This is where the character begins.
Plot Turn 1: New information is introduced which changed things for the character.
Pinch 1: An event or revelation which puts pressure on the character.
Midpoint: The point in which the character goes from reacting to acting. (Also called the "Mirror Moment.")
Pinch 2: Character loses everything/is removed from support, and must go on alone.
Plot Turn 2: Character finds the last piece of information needed to succeed.
Resolution: Ending action. How does the character win? (Or lose, your choice.)

Now that we are all familiar with terms, I want you to look at your story seed again.

1. Begin by writing down your Hook. In what state does your character begin the story? Who are they? What are their circumstances? Mr. Wells uses the example of Harry Potter, but let us use my story instead. As you may know, I begin as a rather pompous young heir to a throne I don't deserve. How does your story start?

2. Next, skip to the end. I know it sounds backward, but you'll understand in a moment. If your character begins in one state, your want them ending in a different state. Stories are about growth and change, so step two is deciding where your character will end. By the end of my story, I was victorious, but humbled. I grew in knowledge and gave up my pride. How will your character win; how will they have fallen from their beginning state; how will their life have changed? Write it down.

3. Once you know those two things, you should be able to easily pinpoint your "Midpoint" or "Mirror Moment," wherein your character makes the choice to change. This could be a number of different things, but for most stories this is the point at which your character has been pushed around enough by external forces and chooses to act. For me, it was the point at which I truly gained understanding of what my place was, to protect all life, and Mjolnir was returned to me.

4. Now. Let us speak of the Plot Turn and the Pinch. The purpose of both of these tools is to provide pressure, motivation, and incentive for your characters. There are two of each, so let us briefly discuss the Plot Turns first.

4-1. Plot Turn 1 usually takes the form of a "call to action," such as, "You're a wizard, Harry," for example Mine was being cast into Midgard as punishment for my actions.

Plot Turn 2 on the other hand is the point where your character receives the final bit of information they need in order to succeed. For me, it was leaving my friends in a battle and knowing only *I* could stop Loki from taking over Asgard.

4-2. Now, Pinches. Continuing our example, Pinch 1 is trying to get to Mjolnir and being unable to do so. That failure put pressure on me to discover where I'd gone wrong. Pinch 2 is the point at which you want to leave your hero alone and essentially unsupported. I stood alone on the Bridge, facing Loki, knowing I would have to break the bridge in order to stop him.

Obviously there are far more elements to a good story, but this is the skeleton upon which you can build. Discovery Writers will prefer to go from this alone, uncovering details as they write. It should provide just enough structure to give you a place to start from and get to, without taking away the fun of discovery. Hardcore Outliners will probably wish to fill in pieces here and there before writing more, fleshing out what they have here.

Either way, this is a quick and easy method of forming an outline. Using this method, I wrote up my NaNoWriMo outline in approximately an hour, from a story idea that I'd had that very day. Being an outliner I have expanded somewhat, but this gave me a solid foundation upon which to build.

If you've tried this method before, I would love to hear your thoughts on how you liked or disliked it. And if you try it for NaNoWriMo, comment below on how it works for you. And as always, good luck.


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