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Old 09-07-2014, 06:50 AM   #1
crich70
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Andrew Heath's four step outline

I've been reading over notes I took on Andrew Heath's video on writing a story in an hour and I think he boiled things down to basics not only for writing a short story but for the novel as well. I mean he breaks the process down into four parts:

Infancy- where you decide who your main character is.

Childhood- where you introduce the problem (and likely the character who will cause it).

Adolescence- Where you describe the main character's reaction to the problem, and

Adulthood- Where you show what the outcome of the story will be.

It occurred to me as I reviewed the notes I took that if you consider the 2nd-4th parts as a cycle and have several such problem/reaction/resolution cycles in mind (with the worst problem being at the last) that you could easily put together the structure of a longer work. Yesterday afternoon I laid out three potential short story/novel ideas using it. Just one four step list per idea at this point but isn't that how many books are written? By coming up with a basic character + problem + reaction + resolution chain and then filling in the spaces between til you have a detailed outline.
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Old 09-08-2014, 10:45 AM   #2
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There are authors out there than have tried to achieve immortality for their stories by constantly recycling the 2nd-4th parts ... often not to anyone's satisfaction. But otherwise, yes, certain aspects of story telling can be generalised in such a fashion (just has they have been generalised in various other ways).

The other thing that made a lot of sense to me was something I read from Stephen Donaldson (paraphrasing here because I can't remember exactly where I read it): often an idea will sit dormant for a long time before another idea will along to complement it and generate the story.

It's this two (or more) ideas thing that seems to be important to my writing - because it is the working together, or working against each other, of these multiple ideas that provides the spark to make a story work (for me). Now that I know to look for it, I can see it in what I read of others too. Sometimes it's as simple as how "this problem" interacts with "this type of person", but other times it's how "this problem" complicates or solves "that problem". So, for me, the problem isn't so much finding a single story idea, it's finding its complement so that together the two (or more) stories say something interesting (to me).


And, of course, the old advice still holds: It doesn't really matter how to try to break it down, or what analogies you apply, eventually it comes down to putting ink on the paper or pixels on the screen. That's when you find out whether it's really going to work or not.
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Old 09-08-2014, 12:00 PM   #3
crich70
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True enough. And of course the two or more ideas that work in your mind might not work in quite the same way (if at all) in mine. Which just goes to show that everyone has their own story to tell and that such come not just from two or more ideas mixed together but equally from the experiences of each writer (I think). And of course without something to 'add stress' to the character he/she isn't likely to do anything. I mean if he/she has no problem to solve, no quest to complete, etc. there is no tension, no story. At least not one that I'd find interesting enough to read. And of course the 'problem' can't be something that is too easy to solve or else what's the point? If hero needs $50,000.00 to pay for a Dr. bill and someone just gives him the money there isn't any story worth typing. But if while he's looking for the money he either gets mixed up with a loan shark (who will expect prompt repayment) or sees a murder committed and has to now avoid becoming victim # 2 then things start to get interesting. I also agree that what might look good initially may not gel together to make a sensible story. Things have to happen for a reason even in fiction.

Last edited by crich70; 09-08-2014 at 12:03 PM.
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