Outlining for Pansters.
Longer fiction benefits greatly from planning, but not every writer works best (or prefers) to form a detailed outline ahead of time. Here’s a few tips, tricks, and things to remember when you want an outline without bogging down your natural mode of writing.
1. Know everyone’s goals.
The foundation of every good story is a character with a goal. Make a list of:
- All the things your protagonist wants to achieve.
- All the things that can be taken away from them.
- All the things that would majorly distress them.
These should be personal. Most characters will objected to the universe ending: it’s your job to figure out why this particular character does so.
2. Know all available (worthwhile) directions the story can take.
Make more lists!
- In what ways might the world/setting change to take the protagonist out of their comfort zone?
- What/who might stop the protagonist from achieving their goals?
- What really bad things could foreseeably happen in this world/setting?(Which of these bad things align with the list of things that would distress the protagonist?)
3. Have some semblance of a climax.
Based on the worst foreseeable directions the story might go, what might the end result of the conflict look like? Is there a Highest Level of Conflict the story will eventually approach if everything bad that can happen to the protagonist, does? Who or what causes that conflict, and how will your protagonist need to approach it if they want a chance at success?
4. Make it awesome.
Don’t forget to jot down any really cool ideas you have for scenes, dialogue, settings, actions, characters, etc, (so long as they work within the foundation you’ve formed for this story.)
You never have to use them, but they’ll be there for you it you hit a roadblock or your memory fails you.
At this point, you can pick which of your options you really like, and start creating individual plot points and arcs made of the steps your protagonist is taking to get through the bad things that are happening to them, and into the climax, and from there work through the nitty gritty of the individual scenes.
Or you can end the initial outlining process here, dive in, and let the story naturally choose which of the directions you’ve brainstormed it wants to take you!
5. Pro-tip: Fill in any holes in your outline as you go.
If you don’t have a chapter-by-chapter outline when you start your rough draft, jot one down as you write. This will help immensely when it comes time to revise, rewrite, and smooth out all the lumps in the plot.
Remember to include in this outline any important plot points, changes in relationships, reveals of information, and character developments.
Note: This post is in no way meant to imply that pansters need to develop an outline in order to write good books, nor that this is the only way to do it. This is simply a nice method to begin an outline with, which will give a solid foundation even if you chose not to make any commitments.