Thursday, December 24, 2009

TODAY'S NUGGET: Outlining in the Trenches (During Writing)

I write.
I discover.
My script changes dramatically.
That means I've got to revamp my outline too.

Question: So how do you maintain a cohesive story during the exploratory writing phase?

Answer: You got your map, er, uh, outline?

A couple tips:

1 - Realize your outline WILL change as you write. As your story adjusts with new setups and payoffs, adjust your outline to respond. Don't wait until after you write to adjust. Yeah, it's a pain, but it's really what you want. Otherwise, you'll have B story lines that no longer hold up.

2 - Problems are your friends. They bring to light weaknesses of the B.S. (Before Script) phase. If you get stuck, use your outline to help you define your target for the next scene.

ex. I get stuck on Scene #20 of my action script. The protagonist has met the antagonist & lost a fight. Now she is tracking the antagonist. But this is very boring. Now what? I look in my outline & see that these two characters are locked in a meat locker together in Scene #25.

So the target is Scene #25. First, I figure out what I'm trying to say at #25:

- Maybe the meat locker is the big reveal. (So I need to increase the tension in Scenes 21, 22, 23, 24 so the meat locker scene explodes from their fight.)
- Maybe the meat locker is a twist. (So I need to throw red herrings in #21-24 and #25 will be a surprise.)
- Maybe the meat locker was foreshadowed earlier. (So now #21-24 need to be filled with suspense for the payoff at #25.)

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Even though outlines are fluid things, they help you keep your eye on the trajectory of your arrow to the bulls-eye. Don't leave home without one.

* Tomorrow's Nugget: Outlining & Rewriting

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