The Joy of Outlining


Oh, I love outlining. Heck, I’ve become so enamored of outlining, I may never write again. I’ll just outline everything and see if anyone will buy those.

I now have an amalgamation of three different outlining/structure methods I’m using to plot and outline stories.

I’ve recently been exposed to yet another story structure theory, and like the Aristotelian Three Act Story Structure, it’s not a new idea. It’s just a more precise and granular formula for similar ideas. It’s called Dramatica theory, and it’s been around since something like 1993. Or was it 1983? I can’t recall.

Anyway, it was originally developed as a scriptwriting tool. And boy, is it ever a tool. See, novelists can learn a lot from screenwriters. And unlike screenwriters, we have the luxury of working our concepts fully to develop them. But screenwriters can teach us a lot about delivering impact, which means more bang for the buck in our stories, because we can work those ideas up and really paint a picture.

But I digress. Dramatica theory offers the idea of something called a Story Goal, which is the goal the protagonist is after. What the protagonist needs to accomplish in the story. And along with the goal, you end up working out what the consequences are of that goal. What happens if the protagonist fails? If they succeed? What’s required for them to reach the goal? What are the forewarnings, the indicators of imminent failure, along the way? What are the prerequisites, the preconditions, the costs and the dividends along the way?

I won’t bore you with details of all those things, but suffice to say, you can build a pretty rich and entertaining experience just filling in those things. The Dramatica theory also provides signposts along the story, which are similar to the milestones of my beloved modified Three Act Structure. The theory is, as I’ve said, very full and very full of art-speak, but I’ve adapted some things from it because they help build a better story.

So, I’ve taken those things in and have married them with my beloved Story Structure map, which is now even better defined because I use a Hero’s Journey template to layout my story. If you’re not familiar with a Hero’s Journey story model, be sure to check out Star Wars, which most famously used the model as its structure. Then again, almost everything at Disney since 1991 has been done this way, too, so if you’ve seen any of their movies – and I’d be willing to be that includes John Carter too – you’ve seen the model in action.

What’s the difference between the Hero’s Journey and the Three Act Structure? Nothing. Only granularity, as I’ve said. There are four parts and five milestones to the TAS; there are twelve phases to the Hero’s Journey. Breaking a story down that far really helps you develop a good appreciation for the things required to develop a full story.

How well does it work? I’ll talk about that next time.

-JDT-

Copyright DarcKnyt 2012, All Rights Reserved

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One thought on “The Joy of Outlining

  1. Pingback: Story Structure Part One: The Importance of Structure

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