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I am interested in learning the Snowflake Method to outline a novel. Question is: I'd like to write dual plot novel. One part is science fiction set in the near future. The other part is a fantasy world, set in the past, that communicates or is dreamed up by the main character in the science fiction world. In other words, events in fantasy world influence the science fiction world, but not vice versa. Can the Snowflake method be adapted to handle this? Thanks, Craig. P.S. Are there other better outline methods to accomplish this? Also, am I correct in identifying my story structure as dual plot?

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    Not an answer to your question, but a comment on this "snowflake method" or any other such way of organizing a plot. We're all different, and for some people it might work, I don't know, but in my opinion (based on experience as well as education), such computer-like approaches are in direct conflict with the process of creativity. If I'm asked, the best way to write a story is to begin writing. It's OK to have an outline on a piece of paper (ideally: in your head), but seriously: just write. Paragraph by paragraph, page by page, chapter by chapter. Good books escape their authors anyway – Digital Dracula Jun 22 '16 at 5:41
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    @DigitalDracula And I've had a lot of success with the Snowflake method because I'm a plotter and loathe pantsing. It's very much Your Mileage May Vary. – Lauren Ipsum Jun 22 '16 at 10:00
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    Actually, I am both a pantser and a plotter. In regard to the Snowflake method, I did the first step just now, the one sentence, 25 word summary: " My novel is a mythological science fiction thriller about a spoiled college kid that has a religious awakening while psychotic and leads a political revolution against Big Pharma and psychiatry." The word "mythological" is actually a placeholder for the other part of the dual plot, a fantasy, which, due to a connection, directly influences the main character in the first part. It will be interesting to see how this works. – user9885 Jun 22 '16 at 23:00
  • Actually, I divided the one sentence summary into two parts now. PLOT #1: A science fiction thriller about a spoiled college kid that has a religious awakening while experiencing a fairy tale, and leads a political revolution against Big Pharma and psychiatry. PLOT #2 A fairy tale about a desperate slave woman who wants to coerce a feeble minded man into marrying her, but first must gain his trust. – user9885 Jun 23 '16 at 1:06
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I adore the snowflake method and don't see any reason you can't use it to write your story.

First point - What is dual plot? I'm not sure there is such a thing as 'dual plot'. The plot is the main storyline - where the key character starts, the trials they go through, and the resolution. It's common for stories to have more than one of these, often applying to supporting characters, and they would be considered sub-plots.

Dual narrative is where you have two key characters telling the story (or perhaps the same character at different times in their life).

Second point - Is your story dual anything? What you're describing doesn't sound like either multiple plots or even multiple narratives. You're simply describing multiple settings.

The plot isn't dictated by the locations of the story, even if they are in different worlds. Two settings do not equal two plots.

Third point - can you use the snowflake method?

A resounding yes!

But I would say that you need to focus on the main protagonist and their journey - how they change, what their goals and obstacles are. This is where your premise, story skeleton and eventual fully formed plot will come from.

The locations and settings are a backdrop and stage for that, however intrinsic.

Presumably you've started with a premise and got stumped at the location part of it, in which case I would call the location 'across two worlds' or something like that.

I strongly recommend looking at the Character Driven Hero's Journey in conjunction with the Snowflake method to help get to grips with where your plot comes from.

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It sounds to me that you are effectively describing two stories told in parallel with one story being effected by the other. As the effect is one way (in your description) what you really have is a pair of stories one being the sequel to the other.

Dual plot aka dual narrative is probably about the right label. To be honest don't be over concerned with what the technique you are using is called so much as how well ou apply it.

Although I do not use the snowflake method (as such), knowing that you have two stories might make it easier to see how one fits with the other.

You might want to plan two entire 3-act stories or treat it as one long six act story which you will fold back into itself (1 & 4, 2 & 5, 3 & 6) to tell a single 3-act story (with two narratives). Whichever way you do it, you will want to plan the past and the future at the same time. Although in the narrative the past affects the future but not the other way around this is not the case in planning a story. At the planning stage if the motivation does not fit with the outcome there is nothing stopping you working backwards to change the source of the motivation so for you as a plotter the future can indeed effect the past.

So while in the form you want to present the story it might seem like two plots at once what you have is really not so different from one plot with flash forwards/backs.

Other than being mindful of any act structure (1 & 4, 2 & 5, 3 & 6), any technique you would use to plan a single plot would, therefore, apply to this plot too.

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I have never heard the term "dual novel" before (do you mean a novel with a dual timeline?)

I'm currently using the Snowflake method to outline several books in a series, so perhaps I can be of help!

I'm making one "snowflake" per book, but when characters are reappearing, I can reuse steps that deal with their backstory, psychology and the like.

The key here is; one snowflake per book. Because you want the three acts, the plot points and all the other things that make the story into a whole.

In your case, you have to keep track of two stories (or timelines), but they have to be confined in one book (and one snowflake).

In the Snowflake method, you would use characters to create sub plots. In fact, some of the character development steps of the method is meant to examine the story from a specific character's point of view. You will have a slightly different story for each character - or perhaps in your case, a very different story?

In my case I selected one character to be main protagonist, and her story is very similar to the story of each book as a whole (e.g. she and each book share the same storylines).

Then I added detail by having the other characters see things slightly, or wildly different. In one book, one character is in a prison camp, while the protagonist is planning to free her.

The Snowflake method has the potential to have a sub plot for each character, although that would be a bit much. In most cases you use the slightly different perspectives to make sure all characters are three dimensional.

In my estimation, you shouldn't have any problems creating a story with dual timelines using the Snowflake method.

The method is not designed specifically for dual timelines, but dual timelines are just one way of telling a story, regardless of what type of method you use.

  • Erk, you bring up some great points. I am a beginning writer, I am really not sure now if I have dual plots, or I have a big subplot. I'd sure like to share my step #2 of the snowflake method with the dual timelines, but the material is too long for a comment. Would I be consistent with the guidelines of the forum if I posted the material in an answer to your question? Is that what answers are for? – user9885 Jun 23 '16 at 4:02
  • No, I think it fits better as a supplement to your question. Something along the line, "And here's my step 2, how does that work out?" Or you could make it into a different question on the snowflake. – Erk Jun 24 '16 at 14:32

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