I’m getting ahead of the game here, but I came up with a format based on Bill’s index card idea and Monique’s Beginning (B), Middle (M), and End (E) format to outline each chapter. I also like Jeff’s idea of beginning at the end and working backward, although I didn’t do that here with Chapter 1 as an example.
I created a “publisher” document (windows) which has one separate page for each chapter. So, if I have 14 chapters I have 14 separate pages in my publisher document. I then outline each chapter with a Headline, a Beginning, a Middle, and an Ending. Printed on 8-1/2 x 11 paper it takes up about 1/2 page which I can cut into an large size index sheet or simply leave it as is on the 8-1/2 x 11 page.
What I think I’m going to do is write a “headline” (a one liner) for each chapter, beginning at the end and work to the beginning. Then I can fill in the B, M, and E for each chapter beginning at Chapter 1 and ending with the last chapter.
Crazy? or Crazy!
Excellent process, Gerry. You’ve just created your magic blueprint system that will really help at all levels. One suggestion I have about the outline you posted, is to limit the names only to the key characters in your story, and be sure to keep the protagonist present in all parts of the presentation so that we can see the arc of the story more easily. What we’re not quite seeing in the end yet is how these events have affected Greg (if he is your primary character). Perhaps there’s a way you can suggest the philosophical struggle or overarching theme of the story here.
OMG, Deborah has outlined every chapter in her book with a Headliner or a Chapter Log Line, whatever one wants to call it, and I am struggling with format and I’m only on Chapter One. She’s kicking my butt!
Seriously, I think I have my format down now and I am moving forward with the outline text, chapter by chapter, with only the chapter Log Line as Deborah did. I am putting each chapter outline on two separate formats, one on a 8.5 x 11 page for easy revision and editing, and one on 4 x 6 index card for a final printed product. Easy to work between the two.
I’ve completed and posed 5 out of a possible 15 chapters. I will complete all chapters by the end of the week or before. Can’t let Deborah kick my butt any longer, LOL.
Gerry, great outline. I’m really starting to get a clearer picture of the whole story now. I will also say what you have done here is really an annotated outline. For a simpler chapter outline, try to distill the main arc into one short, pithy sentence. E.g., Ch. 5: Greg and Benjamin get demoted; the entire SpecOps team gets disbursed across seven precincts.
some specific notes by chapter:
1: This description is plot-based. Be sure to keep your main characters as leading the action in the scenes. Here, intro the main character and cast the events from his POV.
2. This one is a good example of character-driven action. I still don’t know who Rosie is or what/who Jesse Alley is; upon first mention of a new character, help us get who the character is vis-à-vis the protagonist. (Then ch. 12 will be clearer too).
3. In this case, the FBI agents are not main characters, so would be considered extraneous detail here. Lead with the main character whenever possible. Example: When Greg gets a tip on the cell operation, then he leads his SpecOps team…
4. I’m a little unclear what is happening here, and what the dynamics among the players in this chapter are like. What is Rosie’s goal? What is the relationship between the Mayor and the Chief? Is Rosie trying to get Greg ousted? How does the Mayor play a part? See if you can cast the information in the last two sentences in terms of how these actions are affecting the main characters. In other words, help us see how this change will be better/worse for Greg.
5. Extraneous details can be cut here. We don’t need to know what Greg & Ben are begin demoted from, or the departments/titles. Stick to the simple names and descriptions of the new assignments. I’m also not getting the sense of a complete chapter here yet: for example, when Greg and Ben get demoted and their team gets disbursed across seven precincts, then… (what?). How does the tension increase, or how do the stakes get raised here?
6. good example of character-driven description here.
7. This feels like part of ch. 6: they form a rogue group in which members pass intelligence to G & B. Perhaps you can combine these chapters. OR: make a clear progression of development from the former chapter. (Raise the stakes/tension, etc.)
11: Lead with WHO’s actions are falling into place
12: I’m unclear on the relationships between & among the Mayor, Chief, Rosie, and Greg. Try to cast this from Greg’s POV. Example: When the Mayor bows to public pressure and reinstates the Chief, Greg regains his position to zero in on the bad guys…
13: This relationship is still not clear here, but can be if first mentions of these characters in earlier chapters is made clearer
14: Where is Greg now? Try to keep the main character present in as many of the chapter descriptions as possible. Can this chapter summary be cast from his POV?
15: Keep Greg (our hero) as the main character of this paragraph.
Fantastic job with this outline! What you have done here is an annotated outline–far more than you would need for a basic chapter outline. However, this gives you plenty to work with. For the most part, you have done well to show Annie in all the chapters and identify what her primary challenge/struggle/emotional state is in every case. In a few chapters, I am still seeing plot-based information that doesn’t fully show Annie as the primary actor, or fully show her primary objective. For example: ch 4, she’s having things done to her. Think about how to cast the information in a way that shows what Annie’s primary challenge is/what her motivating actions are. Ch 5: Unless Charlie is a primary character, he probably doesn’t deserve his own chapter. Try to cast this from Annie’s perspective in a way that shows her motivation/challenge; how his story is important to hers. Ch 13-16: These also are more plot-based, as we don’t quite have a sense of how these events affect her. See if there is a way to cast this information from Annie’s POV, or that reveal more of her personal challenges here. Ch 20: Unless the name change from Annie to Nan plays a significant part of the overall theme, these details seem too granular for this level of story distillation. As part of a portfolio package, it would probably be easier to stick to one name to avoid confusion.
Hi Everyone, love the exercises.
I guess I have followed Deborah’s lead, providing an annotated outline as well. I might add that my last updated version is pretty rough and needs some editing. I also might add that some may believe the terrorist events in my story are a little outlandish. I can assure everyone all really happened, but have been dramatized in scope to make it more interesting.
Super great outline, especially starting from so early on in your process. A few notes to think about as you start to flesh out the story.
Some chapters (right now) seem like they can be easily combined, such as 1 & 2, 5 & 6, maybe 7 & 8.
Other areas that may be strengthened are ways to bring out Hayes’ personality as well as Isamu’s more. This will hep convey a stronger sense of the dynamic between these two characters.
Also (and I know in many ways this feels premature), think about ways to be specific wherever and whenever possible; for example ch 1: “learn his feelings”; ch 6: “long-term effects of intolerance”; chs. 12 & 13: “feels”
A key area (again I know this is premature) to look at here is chs. 11–14, where ultimately the story is coming to a crux and our hero takes action. What’s not yet coming through is what his position is with the situation. I think it’s more than just, he feels the anger and then does something about it. It’s got to be connected to the other hint (in ch. 17) of fulfilling his need to be welcomed. These are strong motifs that are coming through. Perhaps there are ways to show more of this theme throughout.
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