Outlining: My Three Outlines

My first outline is the general outline, which has the basic, main events that happen in each chapter.

Chapter Eight:
• They come out the other side and go directly to the closest town, Efisae. There they meet Echo. They find out what he can do with his gift.
• They sleep at Echo's house. In the middle of the night, there is a commotion outside.
• Eoin, Saera, Faine and Echo go down into the street. Saera blinds them and Echo plants in their unconscious minds to go back home.

There is more to this, but I don't want to spoil too much.

Second, there is what I call the Temporary Outline. Here, I outline more specific events that I think might cover the next 1,000 words or so.

At the time of writing this, the Temporary Outline was simply:

• They meet Echo at his house.

And in fact, this took up 1,024 words. I'm consistently shocked at how many words seemingly small scenes can take up.

The final outline I use, I affectionately call the Micro-Outline. The Micro-Outline goes into the details of what exactly happens, including ideas for what movements I might want the characters to make, and any good dialogue that comes to mind. It's like I'm writing out the scene, but I don't have to worry about how best to make it pretty. It's like I'm doing all the thinking at this point, and when I write out the prose I just get to make it all pretty. It definitely takes a lot of the pressure off. It means I've always got something specific to refer to when I'm not sure what to write next.

This is what it looks like:

• Faine walks calmly. Eoin tries to pretend he is calm, but really his heart is racing. He feels strange. He’s never done anything like this before. Faine has said he’s done it often, so maybe that is why he doesn’t appear at all afraid.

• Eoin turns and sees Saera behind him. She is hunched over and her face is white. They climb creaking stairs. The door to Echo’s study is ajar (inside, Echo can be seen leaning over his desk and there is the scratch of furious scribbling) and Faine leads Eoin and Saera inside, calling Echo’s name.

• Echo starts at the voice and jerks upright. He turns in his seat and jumps up to shake Faine’s hand enthusiastically. “It’s been too long. And who’s this?”
Faine introduces Eoin and Saera. He shakes Eoin’s hand with a firm grip. He takes Saera’s hand and lifts it to give it a soft kiss.

• Echo offers Eoin and Saera seats across his desk. Describe the desk, the wall of bookshelves and the view outside the window as Eoin moves around the desk and sits. Faine sits in a couch in the corner.

It might take twice as long doing it this way, but it makes me feel so much more confident when it comes to writing out the prose.
While writing the following scene, I played for the second time with the idea of artificial tension -- when the MC feels tense even though there probably isn't anything to be tense about in reality.
Here is the prose, mostly as it came out under the conditions of Write or Die:
Faine stepped inside and presented the entrance hall. Eoin shrugged and entered. He heard Saera's timid footsteps behind him. Faine walked casually in front of him. Eoin tried to look casual like Faine, but inside his heart was racing. It felt strange just walking into the house of some person he'd never met. He never would have done this back home. Never. Yet Faine said he'd done it often, so maybe that was why he seemed so casual. Eoin was all too aware of his own body language, his clenched fists and upright posture.
Eoin turned to check Saera was still with them. She was hunched over and her face was white. She made the smallest and quietest of steps. At least he didn't look that bad. Eoin tried to loosen up a bit. He moved his arms so they weren't so tight by his waist and lowered his shoulders. Faine turned left up a staircase. Eoin followed, but when a stair creaked he froze exactly where he was. Faine was waiting at the top, obviously unfazed by the noise. In fact, Faine didn't seem afraid to make any noise.

Eoin breathed in and climbed the rest of staircase without stopping, even when it creaked its loudest. Saera was right behind him and they met Faine at the top, now standing in a wide hallway.

"Echo's study is just this way." Faine spoke as though they hadn't broken into the house. Eoin looked at Saera, who shook her head. He knew this meant she didn't want him to go, but he ignored her and walked on with Faine.

It was just now that Eoin realised what they were doing wasn't anything like breaking and entering. It was just the way Echo and Faine did things. That was why Faine showed no hesitation at all in breaking through the front door. Eoin felt suddenly much more comfortable and walked with a confidence closer to Faine’s.

The door to the study was open, and inside a figure was leaning over the desk and there was the scratch of furious scribbling.

As Faine led Eoin and Saera into the large room, he said, "Echo."

The figure started at the voice and jerked upright in his seat, still facing the window. "I know that voice." The figure turned in his seat and, seeing Faine, jumped up and shook his hand at least eight times, an enormous grin on his face. They clapped each other on the back. The man's eyes locked onto Eoin and Saera. "And who have you brought with you?"

"This is Saera and Eoin."

Echo stepped forward and shook Eoin's hand with a firm grip. He then turned to Saera, and while Eoin thought he would show her the same custom, he lifted her hand and gave it a soft kiss. Saera's cheeks turned a faint red.

"Please, take a seat." Echo gestured to two chairs on the other side of his desk.

Eoin and Saera both thanked him. A singular, long bookshelf took up the space of one wall, full of books with red, brown and black covers with gold writing. One corner of the room, by the window, was filled by a comfortable looking couch, which Faine promptly sat in. The window behind the desk was massive. Eoin saw the house across the road with its tree overhanging the roof, a small forest of these alien trees behind it, and then hills of beautiful, dark green grass extending into the distance.

Eoin and Saera sat in the chairs across from Echo.

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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

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