Keeping Your Story Straight

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We’ve conceived a fantastic story idea, we’ve stocked up on pens and printer ink, and we begin gung-ho only to screech to a halt a few chapters in. What’s the problem?


We have hit a crossroads in our story, and each way is as gloriously imagined as the next. So, after hours or days of deliberation, we choose a direction, only to soon find ourselves at another crossroads. And this is fine….

Until we begin to fear one of those other roads we passed could have been a better route and we turn our story around.

Once is fine. Maybe twice. But if you find yourself making figure eights and are completely lost as to where your own story is leading, you need to stop and look at your map. And by map, i mean that outline.

But I didn’t write an outline…You may have heard of a few authors denying the usefulness of an outline, saying things such as “I didn’t want to constrict my character or plot, leaving plenty of flexibility.”

The key word is only a FEW authors don’t make an outline. It takes an enormous amount of effort to keep your story straight without a road map.

I, personally, love to let the story write itself, and sometimes I do write myself into a corner, (eg. Hero can’t complete said quest because i forgot to write him picking up the weapon along the way) BUT, I have predetermined the underlying moral of the story, and i stick to that plan.

To me it doesnt matter how i get from A to B, so long as I know where B is. That means, for all you people who swear against outlines, (including me) do yourself a favor and figure out your foundation at the very least. It’s easier to weave in threads to connect your dangling mini-plots than to work beneath all that to reform your foundation. The end result will be messy.

So, what kind of details does this foundation consist of? In a character driven fantasy, it’s the underlying emotional or mental conflict of your hero or heroine. You MUST get on a personal level with your characters. Learn them, like they’re real people. If you figure out what inner conflict the hero must rise above before they reach the end of the novel, you’ll find yourself weaving in parts of his or her character throughout. This element makes readers fall in love with our characters. Literally. Get that part sussed out, and the rest will come much more naturally, and you’ll have far fewer moments of indecision.

So, what kind of inner conflict does my hero have? Well, what are YOUR inner conflicts? Or someone you know well? Everybody struggles. Explore what you know, and you will likely find a starting point.

Let’s say your life-long struggle has been learning how to forgive others because of being scorned in the past . That sends a powerful message. Maybe your hero can have similar qualms.

Creating the first character is difficult. Start with what you know, (yourself) then gain inspiration from others. Over time, you’ll learn how to read people and that makes creating new characters easy, and it makes them seem real and relatable to your readers.

Organize your story bible.If you’re one of those writers who have a notes page thats single spaced and 8 point font, good for you. You’re keeping track of your thoughts. But the bad thing is…

That’s alot of thoughts. And some thoughts become misplaced.

It takes ages to read and re-read through all those chicken scratches, looking for that one note you think you remember writing. And if you’re finding yourself filling in the gaps based on what you think you remember, just to keep from shuffling through the notes page, let’s break it down. Try this:

New Ideas-
Plot points-

Tailor your categories to your note-taking habits. Even if you only have two sections, it’ll save you half the time.

Keep at it.
Avoid long periods of break between times of writing. Things get forgotten and mini-plots are left unfinished. If you must take an extended break, atleast read through your notes to keep your mind fresh on the subject. And remember…

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How do you keep your story straight? Let’s hear about it!

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