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Monday, April 26, 2010

Working on Outlining and Character Arc

A new novel is beginning to demand my attention which means I have to do something I dread almost as much as writing a synopsis. What could be that bad you wonder? Outlining. To say I'm not a fan of it would be a gross exaggeration. I hate outlining, it sucks. Why do it then? Why not just let my muse guide me and write? Because my instructor at a writer's retreat I attended forced me to write an outline for a book I'd already finished and it made me see the error of my ways. An outline will point out all inconsistencies, plot holes, and blatant mistakes. I realized that if I write one before I write my novel, it reduces my revision process dramatically. So, though I hate it, I write the outline and my novel is far better for it.

A blogging writer friend of mine, Jamie Harrington wrote an adorable post on outlines that changed the way I feel about them. She made outlining fun and~dare I say~easy. Her agent asked her if she outlines her novels. Check out her entertaining answer here: http://www.totallythebomb.com/storysaurus-rocks-face

So if this post is all about outlines what is my picture of a character arc sheet for? Glad you asked. I found that if I fill out a character arc sheet (like my fancy design?) then it makes the outlining process that much easier because I already have an idea of where I want the story to go. I start at the bottom of the sheet and work my way up. Off to the right I put major points of the story that affect the character. In the box I put what the character is feeling and thinking, basically where they are emotionally in the story. As the plot progresses I chart changes in the character. This way I make sure my character actually learns and grows, or the opposite depending on the story. Characters are the heart of your story and their arc is just as important as the story arc. The last thing you want to do is neglect them. Feel free to use my character arc sheet if you like. I hope it helps ease the process for you.

19 comments:

  1. This is great! I had a similar experience writing a synopsis for an already completed work—all my plot flaws were completely exposed after the fact.

    In Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, he also gives a guide for writing an outline that is so helpful.

    Thanks for the Character Arc sheet--I plan to use it :-)

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  2. I like this plan sheet also. I used something similar, but it took a whole table as I wrote out things that happened to each character.

    This is much easier.

    I may have to check out Donald Maass' book too.

    Happy Writing!

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  3. I'd better hurry up and get reading Donald's book if he talks about outlines! Thanks for the tip Portia!

    Thanks Lorelei. I'll let you know how Donald's book turns out.

    I'm glad you like the character arc sheet ladies! I hope it makes the process easier for you!

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  4. This is an awesome worksheet. Thank you so much for posting it!

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  5. You're welcome Katarinas Mama! I hope it helps. Thank you for following!

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  6. I love the idea. Developing character is one of my favorite parts of the whole creation process. My stories always usually start with characters or their conversations or thoughts. This is very cool! Thanks!:D

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  7. Ugh! You're making sloppy people like myself feel bad. :) I know, I know you are right. I SHOULD outline. Should have. Would have. Could have. Oh well.

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  8. I'm a huge fan of outlines. But then I'm a huge fan of preplanning. Now if only my house was as organized as my writing. :)

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  9. I do like your character arc sheet. I'm a recent convert to outlining, and even then don't do a very thorough job of it. I've also been known to go back and change an outline once I start writing and realize my outline doesn't quite work.

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  10. I'd love to see this worksheet filled out!

    I too outline, but I outline first my characters then a brief overview of the story (like the back of a book or your query would read) and then I outline each chapter.

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  11. Just found your blog and added myself as the 100th follower! Wow, I feel special. Do I get a prize?

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  12. Thank your for sharing this! The storysaurus was very cute. :) I've been writing up outlines and arcs but in a less organized way. I think I will give your arc sheet a test run.

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  13. No time like the present to start Lisa! ;) Don't feel bad, I was drug kicking and screaming into the group of outline believers!

    Boy do I know the feeling Stina! Now that I'm getting into this outlining thing the organized perfectionist in me is kicking in.

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  14. Me too Alissa! I'm so guilty of that. But hey, at least we make the attempt!

    That's kind of what my outline ends up being Lindsey. This sheet would be the character's outline then I break down each chapter and what I want in it. We're so alike it's frightening sometimes. ;)

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  15. Karen, whoo hoo, 100! I'm doing the happy dance (which you soooo don't want to see)! Thank you so much for following. Stop by my post titled Spring Cleaning For Your Novel Contest and drop a comment in there to be entered!

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  16. At least you've been writing them Amanada! I was flying by the tip of my pen before I was forced to see the error of my ways. I'm glad you liked the arc sheet, I hope it helps!

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  17. It IS scary! But it's what we have in common that makes our friendship so great!

    BTW, congrats on 100 followers!!!

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  18. SO true Lindsey! And thanks! I'm so excited and can't wait to chat with all my followers here in the comments. Giveaway will commence Friday!

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  19. I'll be borrowing this. I detest outlining, but discovered early in my WIP how valuable it is to have a roadmap, as wandering about wastes time. The image of the arc drives the point home nicely, too. Thanks for sharing it.

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