Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Template for a Fantasy Story

This is a template I use to outline and begin a story, and I don't always adhere to it, but it's like a ritual now, and it really helps get me going. If you don't care to read the entire post, you can skim the WORDS IN CAPITALS. (Okay, I just put the words in capitals to punch up this post a little.)

CHARACTERS: This is where most of my stories begin, with characters in situations they'd like to escape or improve. I write a 2-page bio for the main characters, including history, memories, physical descriptions, quirks, personalities, hobbies, SECRETS. I'm big on secrets. I also sometimes pick a color or an animal or a song to shape the character's personality.

THEME: This is the protagonist's journey, THE EMOTIONAL CORE, the common thread she/he shares with the human race--love, grief, family, escape, etc;--even if the protagonist isn't human. They need to want something.
P.S. Baddies need this as well, and it might tie into the theme.

STORY/PLOT: When I outline, I follow the 3-PART ARC, which makes outlining easy. (But I don't always stick to it!)
                         Act 1: Setting up the characters and the world, and ending with a turning point. Be careful of information dumps.
                         Act 2: Conflicts and suspense, ending with the darkest moment, the protagonist's failure. Story middles tend to wander. This is often where I have to re-structure and cut. A lot.
                         Act 3: Climax and final confrontation. I usually have several different endings in mind and write them to see which will work best.

THE WORLD: I try to go all-out in inventing the world. This is where I do most of my research. Even if I'm creating a fictional world, I usually base it on something actual. For instance, if I have a story that takes place on an island city with a Victorian era atmosphere, I'll do RESEARCH on the Victorian age, ocean life, and port cities.

THE DETAILS: Again, this is part of world building/atmosphere. I try not to go overboard, but making the reader feel as if they're in the same place as my characters is important to me. I want it to haunt them. I try to add dashes of detail (sounds, colors, scents), identify objects by names (cars-Chevy, tree-black alder, a piece of music-Smashing Pumpkins' 'Ava Adore'). UNUSUAL OR AUTHENTIC DETAILS also make your world stand out from every other fantasy place out there.

OUTLINE: This is the skeleton of the story, the structure upon which the fun stuff is built. This is how I get from POINT A TO POINT B, without retracing my steps and wasting time.

IDEA JOURNAL: This is the fun part, like Pinterest, only a pretty journal pasted with magazine photos, filled with sketches, notes, lists, and favorite words from the book I'm writing. It's FREE-FORM WRITING to keep the story from going stale.


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