Saturday, August 2, 2014

Somebody asked me about outlining and this topic should be put in context as how it helps you get to the end of the story.



THOUGHTS ON OUTLINING FOR STORY SUCCESS

BY

ARTHUR W. HERMANSEN

COPYRIGHT 2014 / ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Try working with two outlines, and a few other documents described herein. At any time you are developing these underlying/underpinning document, keep an additional window open or pad or nearby depending on how you uniquely compose as a creative individual.

Its so much more important log term to structure how you uniquely work through tinkering and experimentation first than to simply go by the dictum of a hundred or fifty year old rules formed by a culture long perceptually gone by. You want to develop breadth of skills and almost autopilot understanding of your personal strengths and limitations first, before immersing yourself in the rote regurgitology so retrogressive to culture so loyally peddled as expertise is these forums and formats.

This approach also allows your originality to crystallize earlier, strengthens your original voice and point of view in ways so if a scene plays out in the theater of your mind in the middle of outlining and you don't know where if fits or if it even fit yet, you still have the capture of data. Capture is key. Critically so.

This side prep is very important, as the creative process can solve some aspects to problems (problem defined as a creative solution(s) we seek; we will get to asking better questions later in the skill dev) very, very fast and others very slow sometimes. This slow part is often institutionally mythified as writers block, productively damning many writers not yearning for an authentic process, and creating a psychological crutch hobbling our authorial community.

You want to learn how to work (and identify for the sake of the blueprint of your general talent architecture; the most important work of art you will ever create) with the creative process's variate ways (which are finite and not undefinable) and be flexible in your thinking because there are severe drawbacks in trying to bend it to your will most of the time, and great advantages in asking everything of it once in a great while. Did writing 'Silence Is Golden' on a blackboard or a paper five hundred times ever really get anybody to shut up? I'd rather believe it launched a thousand political careers.

You have to have a really, really good set of internals developed through some rather dry procedures. Think like becoming an expert martial artist, and a black belt only means you've only achieved getting rid of bad habits, not really gained expertise of an appreciable amount contextualized to the environment of martial use.

One outline is temporal and structure observant. This is the continuity and cohesion (respect for gravity and limitations) outline. Time, distances and locations between scenes can be included so you nail the call of the position of the sun and landscape description (even the chime of Big Ben or the church bells at sundown if consistent with location) so the audience 'turns the temporal page' accurately and naturally . Rising action, complications turning point, point of no return, obligatory protagonist/antagonist face to face scenes, climax/anticlimax sequence and denouement all go here.

I often keep a generic template up on the wall to keep track, because my mind is lateralizing so creatively so fast I need to reference the map to know what questions to ask to solve the relevant complication problems next scene, sequence or overarching plot related. There is even one for character, which I'll speak of after the second.

The second one is emotional which can contain visuals (if you are a imagery type of information manipulator) or audio if you process that way or any other content type (even meta is relevant to context of plot, action and character) you individually are. I often write bad, melodramatic scenes in this outline because my need to tell a story just hits the gas, and it is better to let out some bad approaches than repress anything You might be repressing the right one because you've developed the habit. For all it's rules, keep it light, be easygoing, and never, never, never judge a first draft. People come down on themselves too hard and never let the fun in and that is what the creative process is best for, play. Einstein said that, not me. But right is right.

So, you have two outlines, one structural, one emotional. They can be put up on the wall.

I mean that literally too. The blank wall, to take Billy Wilder's advice forward into our century, is too powerful a creative tableau device to waste on maintaining data order by intellectual means alone. The mind is a difference engine and will toss out or deprioritize unordered data it considers irrational or less rational than a different choice.

But that data could be just exactly the twist or device or complication or character personality trait you want to instantiate. It just might delight your audience with 'a gallivant that looked like it was going nowhere' and give you the pivot point to come back to action and drive plot in a very fun, sexy and ever so humanistic way. Think Mel Gibson saving his life in Bird On A Wire by talking to Goldie Hawn by convincing her they might have a future with children in it. It is the only way to save himself from the crocodiles as his wire is unraveling, if I remember the scene correctly.

Remember, its how you make them feel, not think or receive instruction.

This, by the way, is one of the ways to beat the reader as well, whether at an agency, production company or publisher. Remember in this competitive industry, people vie for TOMA on the outside of a career and counter-politic inside the business.

After these two documents, character biographies come next. They generally go back three generations, so the character can display multi-generational dimension in scene, in action, just like people really do. How often do you respond to people with what your grandmother always said. Same thing, just verisimilitude in character behavior.

I have an excellent auto biographical template I will dig out and post sometime in the future. It is basically similar to one of the Struck & White books, of which you should own all three.

Other support docs that help you outline where your story would go might be maps printed from Google to the scale where all locations fit. If you don't have all locations, locations can be derived from the action through line. Example: Anjolina Jolie and Johnny Lee Miller in "Hackers." They need to get passwords and usernames from the oil company that is going to create a global environmental disaster by tipping over all the oil tankers technologically. The usernames and passwords are critical to hacking the big iron of the oil company to stop the disaster from occurring, even at the cost of breaking the law.

This is sneaky business, so they dumpster dive late at night and get some of what the ensemble needs. But an old security guard discovers them and tries to arrest them but Anjolina Jolie fires a roman candle style device at him creating both a comedic relief to the gravity of their dilemma and deepens the relationship between the two who eventually have romantic interests.

So necessity of solving the conflict can be sources of location in terms of what the protagonist, or protagonistic forces require to do so. It can also introduce new characters (Dr. Allcome from Keanu Reeve's "Johnny Mnemonic) puts Henry Rollins directly into the plot advancement and provides the setting for the conflict ecalation when the assassin shows up and kills Henry Rollins) to the ensemble, who can be quite high energy for short periods because you don't want to keep them up too long. It's a cycle.

I had a macabre historical fantasy feature I wrote with supernatural elements in it I didn't want to even come close to any previous representation, so I embodied origin myth powers in one of the characters and thus was the first screenwriter to historically demonstrate where zombies came from a long, long time ago, in land far, far away. I couldn't resist that last one, sorry.

You can draw crude drawings of what particular characters look like and pin those up on the wall if you want to. Whatever helps is whatever works. The place you are trying to get to is confidenceville. With confidence, the framework you have devised on the wall to support your creative process will allow the unconscious megawriter within you to step up and give you data that will pretty much keep you in awe of the process the rest of your life, if you are lucky and work hard and avoid a lot of BS preached as absolutism.

So a variety of documents giving you solid foundation, the foundation gives you the confidence to move forward with drafts, rewriting the drafts allow your creativity to add, subtract, change, enhance and so forth, until your product comes out the other side of the process as absolutely the best you can do, which gives you a level of satisfaction making the context of all that work worth it. And then your market sense kicks in and you bring your ability to hack narrative to the place in the market (a niche market at first perhaps, but there is no rule saying you can't swing for the fence either) where your skill is competitive enough to get you the damn money honey, LOL.

HTH and good on ya,

The Lone Comic TM
Defender of Creativity and Entertainment SM