An Interview with Soman Chainani – All By My Shelf
It doesn’t matter what age you write for, writers will always debate whether it’s better to be a plotter or a pantser. A plotter is someone who outlines their novel completely before beginning to write it (sometimes overly so); a pantser is someone who “writes by the seat of their pants,” completely winging their novel.
Personally, I like a bit of both. A general outline is a great place to start so that as I begin to write by the seat of my pants, I have some kind of direction.
I consider the following while I begin exploring a new work.
- What is the average day in the life of the main character? How can I make it busy?
- What does the main character want and what needs to happen for them to achieve their goal?
- What, according to the main character, is the worst possible outcome?
- What would keep them from answering the call to adventure?
- What or who will get in the way of their goal?
- How much time do they have?
- What does total loss look like and who or what remains afterwards?
After answering these questions, it’s easier to draft an outline of a story.
A great resource for outlining your novel, whether in depth or lightly, is the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet from Save The Cat!.
- Opening Image: Set the mood, tone, and scope of the story.
- Theme: a secondary character poses a question/statement that is the theme of the piece (can be a challenge to the main character)
- Set-Up: introduce characters who are involved with your main plot and character tics to be echoes later in the story.
- Catalyst: the life changing event that shatters the main characters average day.
- Debate: your main character makes a choice; the point of no return.
- Act II: the playing field has changed, the rules that the main character thought they were playing by are out the window and adjustments must be made.
- Secondary plot: something that distracts us from the main plot and eases tension.
- Fun & Games: the heart of the story.
- Midpoint: the threshold between the first and second half of the story. Fun and games are over now.
- Bad Guys Close In: the villains send in their worst and the main character’s plan and supports begin to unravel.
- All Is Lost: no hope can be found here, this is often a false defeat.
- Black Moment: the main character has lost everything and makes a second choice.
- Act III: The main and secondary plots collide to form the solution.
- Finale: The bad guys are defeated in ascending order until the last one is toppled.
- Final Image: the opposite of the opening image, showing how much has changed.
Originally posted on July 8, 2021 @ 12:00 pm