I picked HUNGER GAMES as the first novel to break down into Basic Story Beats because I knew it had all the elements in chronological order. After all, I’d read the novel thrice and was familiar with the story. Though I was shocked to find that the Debate didn’t actually happen on the page, but rather in my mind. The Set Up was so well written that I was essentially in Katniss’s head, weighing the options for her in that split-second before she yells, “I volunteer as tribute!” Amazing.
Without further ado, The Hunger Games’ Basic Story Beats:
Just as there are many ways to write a novel, there are many ways to outline a novel. You can use all the methods, one of the methods, or none of the methods. The choice is yours! Go nuts with the freedom! Myself, I use all of the outlining methods I will explain in the next few posts. I treat them like stepping stones, each step preparing me to write that novel. Kind of like psyching myself up to jump off a cliff! I start by hopping into the shallow end of a pool, then I cannonball into the deep end, then I dive off the diving board, and finally, when I’ve gotten the basics down, I head to the lake, find a wicked high cliff, and jump!
But even if you prefer to write on the wild side and just jump, the following outline method is handy during editing to figure out what might be missing from your story or how to make your story stronger.
Now without further ado, the first outline method: the Basic Story Beats!
There are writers who come up with an idea and just start writing and see where the story takes them. There are writers who mull over a story in their minds for months or years before they start writing. There are writers who write short stories and use those to create a novel.
Then there are writers who outline.
In film and TV, everybody outlines. It’s how we’re trained to write. Heck, it’s part of the paycheck! Before you are paid for that 1st draft, before you even write that script, you are paid to write an outline. Why? So everyone involved (producers, story editors, broadcasters) can read the story and make changes before the writer has labored over a script.
Now that I’m writing a novel, I don’t have to consult anyone about my story. So why do I still outline? I’ll give you 5 reasons…
When I left TV to write a novel, I really believed I’d be done in a year. Why not? I already knew how to put together a story. Yet as an episodic freelance screenwriter, I’d only been working with the “meat” of a story, not the whole hamburger. That’s right, I’m going all food analogy on you. Whatever. It’s the long weekend and I’m in a barbequing kind of mood, so here we go…