I recently read a post over on Reddit (aka the most addictive goddamned website on the internet bar none) about a guy who was having issues writing, read a book and bam! Suddenly it all clicked and he started cranking out books like there’s no tomorrow. The guy sounded a lot like me – constantly victim of distraction, starting but never finishing, full of ideas but unable to find the inner whateverittakes to get them out of the head and onto the page – and so I thought, hey, the book he spoke about was only 4 bucks on Amazon, I’ll give it a crack!
The book in question is Take off Your Pants! : Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing: Revised Edition. It wasn’t a long or difficult read but was enjoyable enough. Written by Libbie Hawker (who appears to write literary historical fiction) – she lays out a basic outline which she says has drastically improved her ability to write – removing the hurdles of unknown that keep cropping up, while still giving allowing for considerable creative discovery in the writing process.
There was one thing about the way she presented this outline that I found really interesting. Initially Libbie has you consider a number of key factors.
- The Main Character/Protagonist
- Their External Goal
- The Antagonist
- The End.
- The Protagonist’s Flaw
- The Protagonist’s Ally
Now obviously she goes into considerably more depth than just the above, also adding in there a whole series of key story points which I will not go into here. In addition, she uses examples of several other books and her own writing to help explain these points, something that authors like KM Weiland also do particularly well and really help drive the understanding home.
What I liked most about the above points however (and they all made perfect sense once explained) – is she describes them as the story core, or story bricks – and creates this image of building a bridge (the outline itself). Each time you create an element of the plot via the outline, it has to be using one of these particular bricks. It constrains the writing in such a way that you’re staying within an overall framework that really is quite logical.
For example, any decision the protagonist makes is determined by the theme, or his/her’s flaw, or their external goal. If you consider this right the way through, you’re basically identifying the story for no other reason than you’re making logical choices that apply to the story as a whole, creating a cohesive piece that sticks to the fundamental elements of good story.
So while I haven’t yet sat down to solidly work out my outline, I do have a very good idea of a lot of these concepts – it’s just now that the hard work begins, little old wuss bag Marcus hides in the corner.
One other thing I found interesting was her descriptions of using the above method for multiple protagonist/antagonist stories, where you need to go through the entire process for each main character and logically link them together later in the story. This was interesting to read and I am glad she covered it as I rarely see that particular topic come up in every day writing craft type articles.
If you’re like me and struggling to get your ass into gear and write, and feel that developing a basic (yet also quite comprehensive) outline might help you, I highly recommend checking out Libbie’s book.