Adventures in Outlining

Well, I’m not sure how much of an adventure it is. I wrote the outline, put in all the bits and pieces, and I’m still stuck trying to write it.

Maybe I need a more detailed outline? But, if that’s the case, why not just write the darn thing? Is there any way to feel your way into the character’s thoughts and emotions without losing your interest in the story?

I’m having more luck with my firefighter story right now, because the character is speaking to me. Maybe that’s the problem. Did I jump the gun on the Christmas story, outline it too soon? I hope not–I like Carter. But maybe part of the problem is that I don’t know Thilo as well and I should have waited.

Can you tell I’m flailing a bit here? I’d really like to learn to outline. I’d like to get the stories out on the page faster. And it’s a rare thing that I can’t turn my hand to, so this is doubly frustrating, because I have to wonder if I’m doing it wrong. Or not trying hard enough.

Maybe I should get some second opinions? Those of you who plot, does this look like enough to be going forward with?

Opening Scene: Thilo is at the grocery store, debating over whole turkeys and checking his list. His friends call him from their Christmas party, drunk and silly, to see how he’s getting along in his new city. After the call, they decide to play a prank on him and send him a stripogram.

Inciting Event: Christmas Day, massive storm, Thilo is cooking the turkey and wondering why the hell he bought a whole turkey. The buzzer rings—telegram—and he lets Carter up. Lapdance in Santa outfit (Thilo is embarassed). When it’s over, they realize the storm is much worse and Thilo invites Carter to stay for Christmas Dinner.

It’s–of course–already changed somewhat. And now that I’ve put that up there, I’m realizing that I need to change the outline. Because the inciting incident and the opening scene are actually neither of these scenes, and they both take place in the first chapter, with Carter, not Thilo.

Bugger.

See, I’m verbal. I know this isn’t really talking, but it kind of is to my brain. Thanks for letting me bounce ideas off you. Don’t be surprised if I’m back again to pick your brains. 🙂

Phew. I was worried I was going to have to confess my failings to The Editor in Question. I have survived to write another day!

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2 responses to “Adventures in Outlining

  1. Kate, I think what you’re missing in these two beats is the character’s emotions. You mention that Thilo is embarrassed in the second one, but WHY is he embarrassed? What does this say about him as a person, and how he needs to change by the end of the story? Of course, you may already have your characters’ personalities and inner issues all figured out in your head, so there’s no reason for you to sketch them out in your outline. But if you don’t have those things solidified inside your brain, and you’re feeling like these two beats aren’t working, that would definitely be what’s missing.

    What does the debate over turkey size say about Thilo? WHY do his friends plan to send him a Strip-o-gram? (Because he’s too uptight and needs to chill and have fun a little?) Working out these specifics, if you haven’t done so in your mind already, will make these two beats feel much more unified.

    Also, I’m not seeing any sense of pacing yet. Giving each scene a little bit of building urgency will help push the reader (and the characters) from one even to the next with a nice, strong hand, and will assist in building that sense of a unified feel.

    One way you might add some pace to the first beat is to show a conversation between the friends, debating whether it’s a good idea to send that stripper or not. How do they think Thilo will react? What are they trying to accomplish? Why do they finally give in to the squeezing sides of the funnel and decide that yes, they will definitely send the stripper over?

    In the second beat, does Thilo have any internal debate over whether he should let Carter stay for Christmas dinner? What kind of squeeze does he face? What are his alternatives, and what makes him finally decide to extend the offer?

  2. It sounds like what you’re saying is I need more details in each section–not just the actions, but the emotional beats as well and more background? I’ll give it a try. The Editor in Question is handflailing, because the title of this story is hers and She Demands Her Due. 🙂 So it must be written. And preferably by June.

    Oddly enough, there is a scene planned with the friends drunkenly deciding to send Thilo a stripper, and the suggestions getting more and more ridiculous. It’s the only scene that isn’t from either Thilo or Carter’s POV, and isn’t in close third.

    Lots of good questions to get me thinking about it. Thanks!

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