I have been struggling to figure out how to outline a story (script). I would like to make an Anthology where it starts off with my main character placing the setting, and then over the course of the story adding in other characters that support and explain the main character's journey to the ultimate end. I am connecting and weaving all the plot points together to make sense at the end. I also would like to have the characters introduced have their own smaller arcs to give depth to my story, but my essential question is how do I outline this in a way that makes sense and is easy to reference while writing?
Scrivener is good for constructing large stories with many moving parts. It is designed to go from research to final draft, with preset templates for scripts and novels.
I use the "folder and sub-text" hierarchy to organize very large timelines. Each text file within the project can be re-arranged by dragging, and split at a point in the text. There's an index card view that can show a summary, and other views where you add notes outside the main body of text. Contiguous text files can be read as one document. It's flexible to view while everything is still under construction.
It tends to be self-organizing as you arrange the hierarchy to suit the way you are thinking about it. Random notes become an outline, outline is split into chapters, which divide into scenes. A stray scene can be placed somewhere near where it belongs and eventually get massaged into place.
When an idea strikes it's easy to stick a quick note into the project where it belongs, so I'm able to catch and organize more ideas. It's something like a Rolodex, and a content management system, and a word-processor. It has a very utilitarian look which put me off at first, but now I am able to plot (infinitely) larger projects.
Complexity Overwhelms the Brain
Complexity is not a great starting point. Yet, the brain often sees the gestalt of everything together and then overwhelms the writer so that they cannot even begin. It's quite a challenge. But the almost impossibility of complexity is also a pointed stick that is telling us to go in another direction.
Focus On The Simplest Element You Can
If you'll break each item into its own component you'll find that you will be able to manage the story and then weave it together. However, if you try to do it all at once you'll probably get something similar to what you might get if you just threw it all in a bucket and mixed it up.
But, of course, you are thinking, "But how do I break it into components?"
How Do You Break It Into Components?
Here are some guidelines:
- Sit quietly and imagine all your POV Characters and list them.
- List what each character wants.
- List the major conflict that each character will experience.
Conflict, More Conflict, With Conflict Sauce On Top
Are your characters in opposition to each other? Hopefully, this is where the weaving begins. This will create specific conflicts and conflict is what the stories are all about.
If you find that your characters are not in conflict with anything then you do not have a story for that particular character.
Write In Scenes
Now, take one character at a time and write one scene.
Write a scene where :
- The character wants a specific goal.
- The character is opposed by someone or something that will not allow her to get the goal.
- By the end of the scene the reader must know what the character wants and believe that the character must have it.
- To create more conflict --- insure that by the time the scene ends the character is further from his goal than when he started out. Write tough stuff. Get your character into the jelly and so stuck you wonder how you'll write him out. Don't be afraid, you'll figure it out and it'll make great reading.
- Begin seeing that the various characters want things that will oppose each other over the longer story. Get those subplots going. Make sure you communicate that directly to your reader. Bob wants the McGuffin! He must have it. But so does Sarah. She will fight for it!
I find that time is the most important organising metric for me to keep track of events, characters, technology, artifacts, and/or organisations. I always end up needing a timeline, not necessarily to start with but as an organisational tool once there is either a single long duration narrative or a few separate stories over a long time in the same setting I find one absolutely essential. This doesn't necessarily need dates on it or even defined time gaps between events but it keeps things in the right order.