Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Conversational Snippets as an Outline

Scott (the other one, not me) over at The Literary Lab did a post about narrative proofs yesterday. Yes, the man dared link writing with math! I mean, seriously people, algebra was not, and still isn't, my friend. The minute I read the word math I go into a trance like state and . . . . hey, now, what was I writing about? See!! One simple word and I totally lose my train of . . . . it happened again, dangit!

Seriously though, you need to check out the article. Very good, even if it is about math . . . in a way.

Scott (again, the other one, not me) also gave a glimpse of one of his narrative proofs (i.e., outlines) and posed the following question: does anyone else work in a method similar to this?

Well, of course, I don't, because, for the most part, I don't outline. For the most part . . .

My current WiP (title still in the ever changing mode, btw) does have a rough outline. The thing I realized is that a good portion of my outline is based on conversational snippets.

So, rather than go into a lengthy, highly intelligent btw, discussion, I figure it's easier to show than tell! Ha!

The outline looks something like this . . .

New Concept: brief, very brief, summary of the new concept. Sorry, don't want to give away the brilliance.

Chapter Titles = sentences from chapters (this wasn't in the original outline concept, but was added later when I decided to do chapter titles).

Part I:

  • The Swan is Dying - brief explanation of what the statement means, etc.
  • Ride from airport
  • "She's not faking, is she?" "Would she do something like that?" "In a heartbeat. She's a master at manipulation."
  • 1st Meeting
  • "You'd better be dying, old woman!"

Part II:

Well, I'm guessing you're getting the point right now. The outline is filled with various snippets of conversation that become the basis for the various chapters. Yes, in some instances I have certain things like "sees so-and-so across the room" or "encounters wicked witch of the east" - okay, that's not in there, but . . .

I might not have a mathematical theory to compose a very rough outline that barely begins to skim the surface of what is going into this current WiP, but I do have stepping stones, so to speak, that are leading me down the path of completion. For me, the conversations between the characters are at the heart of his manuscript.

Are you disappointed I'm not the unaccepting bitch you thought I'd be?

Maybe the first check I wrote was out of guilt, maybe the 20th as well, but at some point, my guilt no longer mattered.

I felt betrayed.

You were my greatest hope and turned out to be my greatest disappointment.

You were just jealous that I got to wear a dress, and you didn't.

All of these lines come from different chapters, or prospective chapters. For whatever reason, these conversational points guide me from chapter to chapter.

I often just start scribbling down conversations on a piece of paper. Yesterday, I filled up the front and back of a piece of paper, little snippets here, there, and everywhere, and then had to sort those snippets into a coherent order as I wrote the chapter. Yeah, that happens sometimes.

So, the point of this post, other than that we all do things differently is, that outlining isn't necessarily a precise, bullet point document. Sometimes, it's something similar to a mathematical theory, or snippets of conversation, or something else entirely. An outline, in any format, is just what works for a particular writer.

And, since questions are the thing, and discussions are great, do any of you do anything similar? Totally different? Discuss! Enlighten.



Michelle McLean said...

I do the same thing! I have actually tried to outline a little more lately. Though it's more of a basic story arc than an outline. I list my main conflict, the main turning points, the climax and the resolution - that way I have a basic road map for where I want the story to go.

But I do usually end up with a pile of post it notes and scrap papers with lines of conversation written down on them. The details can always be filled in later, but those conversations, the specific lines coming from my characters that make the story what it is - those I want to get down right away so I don't lose them :) And I do organize them into outline form - something along the lines that you illustrated.

"Somewhere in chapter three - "Oh she did not!" "Yep she did" " etc :)

Davin Malasarn said...

Scott, this is very interesting. It looks sort of similar to some of my very early drafts, when I sort of sketch my way through it with fragments and details that I hope will come together later. Thanks for putting this up!