There are books that contain conceptual chiasms, which are easily seen when the books are outlined. Is outlining before writing the only way to produce these structures, or can you produce them by refining a draft with no structure? What process would you use to accomplish this?


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Mary Robinette Kowal teaches a writing method based on "MACE", where four 'questions' are settled in the reverse order that they were introduced. Presumably all of her stories follow this structure.

A brief description of her method is below (video of a live lecture on a sea cruise):


MACE expands on Orson Scott Card's MICE Quotient. Similar to MICE, Kowal's method suggests that (all) stories have these 4 fundamental conflict 'threads' in varying amounts. Specific genres tend to feature one of the conflict types, but 'good' writing requires that all four are present.

Kowal's addition is that the threads are introduced in some order, and should be resolved in the reverse order. The conflicts are 'nested', like opening doors to go deeper into the story, and closing them one-by-one as we exit the story for a satisfying conclusion.

This seems to fit your definition of "conceptual chiasms, which are easily seen when the books are outlined".

Outline or 2nd Draft

This structure wouldn't necessarily need to be plotted before writing a first draft. Once the 4 conflict threads are introduced it should be evident which conflict is the first to resolve.

Fixing plot holes and scene-order structural work would be a normal part of a second draft.

I don't understand the purpose of writing without even a basic outline. But if you are an author who wants to explore some deliberate 'structure', an outline seems the most reductive and simplistic model to work it out.

  • "I don't understand the purpose of writing without even a basic outline." – To me it is the joy of exploring and discovery. Outlining is like prescribing to your spouse what you want to do and say every day of your relationship until you die: exciting while you make it up, but boring and stifling during execution. Discovery writing is like life: exhilarating, frightening, and riddled with joys and failures. In short: more intense, more fun, more difficult for the beginner. Like life.
    – user55858
    Mar 17, 2023 at 8:55

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