As it’s Camp NaNoWriMo this month I made a plan to blog about my writing progress, and as I’ve spent the last few days working through my current project I’ve had some thoughts about what I needed to consider when outlining my plot.
Although the following points are numbered, it isn’t really a step-by-step list; all of these elements are equally as important as each other!
1. Your characters
Without characters, it would be pretty difficult to drive your story forward! Aside from being the main points of interest for a reader, characters are great tools you can use to affect changes in your story, which is why it’s important to know a bit about them when you’re planning your outline. You don’t necessarily have to plan every detail about them before you start writing (I rather like to figure out who they are as I write), but you should have a basic idea about who they are. Knowing details such as their name and what they look like can be figured out later if they’re not integral to the plot, but any talents that might help them in the story, and any traits that might hold them back will really help you shape your plot and add points of tension and conflict if you’re feeling stuck.
2. Your story’s ending
When planning your story, knowing how it ends will give you a better idea of what you’re working towards, and gives you a definite point at which you know all loose ends need to be tied up by. You don’t need to have your ending figured out first (although it can make writing the rest a lot more fun!), but before you put pen to paper, if you haven’t figured out how it’ll end you might need to do some more thinking on where your story is going; I find having an ending a great way to navigate the rest of the story and work through any points at which I get stuck.
3. Your starting point
By starting point, I don’t just mean your beginning scenes, but where your characters begin. A good story is one where the characters evolve and emerge changed in some way (hopefully for the best!), meaning each of your characters need to go on a journey that takes them from one place and end up in another place; not just physically, but emotionally, and mentally. You don’t have to restrict this to your main characters but defining the personal journeys for your side characters, and antagonists will help you with your planning too.
4. Your theme
I’ve made the mistake in the past of not thinking through my theme until much later than I should have, and ending up with something that felt very flat because of it. Having a theme or a message in your story will help enrich it, and hopefully having your readers questioning their own thoughts on matters you might have delved into in your book. Whatever it is, the earlier you plan your message, the more naturally you’ll find yourself incorporating it into your story as you write.
5. Your world
Another aspect of your story that will add more depth is building a world that a reader can believe in. Defining the place (or places) where your story is set, where your characters live, and where they interact with other characters will help your readers see the world from the characters’ points of view, and allow them connect with them by understanding their physical means. It needn’t be a world your reader would want to live in (Hunger Games, I’m looking at you), but making it a believable setting, giving it a history and its own culture will add so many more layers to your story that will pull your readers in.
With these 5 points in mind I managed to work through my own WIP this week and iron out my overall story outline. What things do you like to consider when planning your outline?