I’ve had many false starts on my writing journey – stories that started strong and got lost in the middle, stories that fell flat and forgettable at the end, stories that had a debilitatingly weak character arc. I found ways to address all those problems, but in the process still wasted a lot of time. Since my theme for 2015 is “Be More Productive!” I’m aiming to avoid these false starts and less-than-stellar stories. So I took a good hard look at what makes a story worthy of being written and decided it comes down to these three things…
My last post about Theme turned out to be a little contentious. Not everyone agreed with the definition, which isn’t surprising considering we were all taught in English class that theme is a) usually distilled down to one word, like “salvation” or “death”, and b) open to interpretation. This approach to theme works in a classroom setting where the point is to explore a work of fiction, but it’s not very helpful when trying to write.
Theme can be used to strengthen every scene in your story. To learn how, click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com
Theme is like a truffle – it has to be there, just under the surface, but one must snort through much mud to unearth it. A most unpleasant process I’ve been stuck in for the last few months. So why do I keep at it? Won’t the theme of my book just magically appear once it’s written? Won’t a reviewer or professor or reader interpret the theme for me? Why do writers need to know the theme of their novel?
Simple answer: to make the book the best it can be.
Because if you’re not shooting for that, why are you reading a blog about writing craft? Right? Okay. Let’s get to work…
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!