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Outlining Tips

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Fri Oct 28, 2011 9:01 pm
Carlito says...

I finished my first novel over the summer and upon further review, realized that it has very little conflict and it's kind of boring. I want to start the second draft in the near future but before I do, I want to have a plan so I don't write another 128,000 word manuscript with a boring plot. I like the large picture plot of the story, but it's the finer details that are throwing me off.

Here's a brief outline:
Spoiler! :
Purple - YA romance
Chapter 1: Grey - central theme is Cora's extreme loneliness. Her two best friends now have boyfriends and they're leaving her out. She's a senior, has never had a boyfriend, and wants to know what it's like badly.
Chapter 2: Green - central theme is Cora's new found hope. She likes this boy named Archer. He has a girlfriend, but things slowly begin to work out. He breaks up with his girlfriend, they start to get to know each other more. Things are looking up.
Chapter 3: Yellow - central theme is Cora's joy and happiness. Archer asks her out, their relationship is great, they're super happy, they fall in love quickly. Everything is sunshine and rainbows.
Chapter 4: Red - central theme is this great love between Cora and Archer as they move into summer and begin to prepare for Cora leaving for college (Archer will still be in high school). They're super in love and want to be together forever.
Chapter 5: Blue - central theme is how bittersweet things are. They're so in love, but it's so hard for them to be geographically separated from one another. They miss each other a lot. The chapter ends with Archer and two of his friends being killed in a school shooting (which makes more sense through a subplot).
Chapter 6: Black - central theme is Cora's extreme misery due to the death of Archer.
Chapter 7: Purple - central theme is strength as Cora learns how to live her life without Archer.

In addition to the main plot, I have two, maybe three subplots that I'm going to try and develop more. Is that enough? I have more main characters than that.
The characters that are currently featured in the main plot or a sub plot are:
-Cora, who narrates the story
-Archer, who she loves
-Claiborne, who kills Archer
-Harper, one of Harper's best friends
-Libbie, a friend at the beginning of the book and then ends up fighting with Cora a lot and ending the friendship.

I have other main characters too though...
-Polly, Cora's other best friend
-Evan, who is dating Polly
-Allen, who is dating Harper
-Miyah, another friend of Cora that has a couple of small conflicts

I have a couple of smaller characters that have some smaller subplots that affect Cora and Archer as well that could be beefed up some more...

So I guess what I'm really trying to figure out, is do all of the main character have to have their own conflict and their own subplot of sorts? Right now the only character that really develops is Cora, which is obviously a problem. Obviously all of my main characters need to go through conflict, but should I just beef up the subplots I currently have and get everyone involved, or do I need to add more subplots?

How do you guys outline? I have some rough ideas of what I want to do, but I'm not really an outliner and I feel like I should have an outline going into this second draft.

Sorry if this is kind of jumbled or random or doesn't make much sense. I just feel very lost about what I'm supposed to do now! :) Please let me know if you need more information or have questions or anything.

Thanks much!

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Sat Oct 29, 2011 5:28 pm
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Rosendorn says...

I had a similar problem, with the one-dimentional plot line. It focused on the MC's battle against the villain, and her love interest. That's it.

What I ended up doing was thinking of the characters as part of a giant web of interactions. They didn't live in their own little world for their own little plot; they interacted with a whole host of people who would affect how they lived their lives and created their personalities not just from internal conflict and one or two plots, but from a whole host of other problems that come up in the day.

So the result, for me, was beefing up subplots and making them, basically, full plots just in case the other characters became protagonists. Because, technically, they were the star of their own story. Their lives didn't just centre around the viewpoint character— they became themselves.

My biggest suggestion, then, would be to beef up the subplots and focus on other interactions besides your core plot. Start weaving all the plots together, so it's more a full slice of real life instead of a slice out of just your character's lives. It helps get the story more interesting and more realistic. A lot more work, planning wise, but worth it for the interaction.

Also, get into some detailed character history. Nothing quite better than reading a story and you can feel the history between those interacting.
A writer is a world trapped in a person— Victor Hugo

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