How to Write a Dramatic Outline Discussed in Seattle Writing Class
In my Seattle writing classes, I’ve learned that structure is the biggest challenge for most writers. While most writers understand sentence structure and paragraphing, they have trouble organizing paragraphs into a larger story. This is one of the things we’ll discuss in my upcoming summer Seattle writing class, Writing for Story. One of the best ways of structuring a story is to begin with an outline, This needn’t run pages and pages: sometimes even a simple three or four sentence outline can do the trick, such as the one I’ll explain below. By using this outline, whether for a story or book, you’ll discern out the larger shape of the story in advance. If you fail to do this, it’s like building a house without a strong foundation; it can easily collapse.
The dramatic outline allows you to chart the emotional peaks and valleys of the story so that you’ll know where you’re heading when you sit down to write. The five short statements below describe the major actions in the story. There is one statement for each major focus. This is not like the outline you wrote in English composition class; these statements highlight on the dramatic actions in story. They help you focus on what’s essential to the story, one of the things I address in my Seattle writing classes. This is a conflict—resolution outline, with the conflict introduced in the first statement, developed in the next three statements, and resolved in the last statement.
1) Complication – Make it simple and active. Have you chosen active verbs to show action? Is the main character included statement? How will you illustrate the main action? Do you have the source material for this? Is the action dramatic enough?
2) Development Action – Clear, cogent, related to complication.
3) Development Action – Clear, cogent related to complication, tied to previous development, tied to main character.
4) Development Action — Clear, cogent related to complication, tied to previous development, tied to main character.
Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The forms of things unknown and the the poet’s pen…
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
William Shakespeare (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth.
For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.
…with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always.
I was trying to write then and I found the greatest difficulty was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced…the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or ten years or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always.
It is wrong to have an ideal view of the world.
It is wrong to have an ideal view of the world. That's where the mischief starts. That's where everything starts unravelling.
The difference between the right word and the almost right word…
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
One false word, one extra word…
One false word, one extra word, and somebody's thinking about how they have to buy paper towels at the store.
Writing a novel is a terrible experience.
Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I'm always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it's very shocking to the system.
Just follow your hero.
First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!
Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you.
Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.
Pleasure in a good novel…
The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.
Get it down. Take chances.
Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
There are only two or three human stories.
Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes for thousands of years.