Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Battle: Outline vs. Free-Writing

From "homestarrunner.com"

     Do you prefer to create an outline and fill in the blanks with your prose?  Do you love the freedom that free-writing affords?  “Do you has five bucks?”
     Well this week I will go over some of the merits of each and provide examples in my writing.  Feel free to post you own thoughts on the subject.

I struggle with creating a good frame for a story but also wonder if the form detracts from the substance.  The two can be used in conjunction or separately, but each have a place in writing exercise.  This week I look forward to discovering which method is more productive and lends best to strong narrative continuance.
     First I will look at Outlining.  Here is a simple description of an outline from Wikipedia: "An outline is a list[1] of the main features of a given topic, often used as a rough draft or summary of the content of a document."  This is a great way to craft a story when there is a solid plot, setting or character arc that needs a road map for completion.
     Sometimes I picture a story as a human body, with all of the parts assembled to create a living entity (Frankenstein’s Monster).  I often think of the outline as the skeletal system with the sentences and paragraphs acting as the muscle and skin.  The mood and underlying themes are the miles of nerve endings spread throughout the body.  Characters, setting and major plot points are the organs that fill the body with life to support each other.  Lastly, the tone and voice of the author are the heart of body that spread life and purpose to each section.  If the parts coalesce and the body is loosed in the world; the story lives!

     If the previous analogy is a little too visceral, how about one comparing an outline to an umbrella?  Or a good road map?  ...Maybe a GPS?
From "Death Star PR"
     In the climatic battle for empiric control of outlining or the rebellious nature of free-writing, the darkside takes a strong hold on my early writing.  I often plot the story and character arc in advance leaving the details for chance later in the drafting process.  It appears to have wonderful stability, but does not leave much to chance.

     Here is an example from the opening scene for the d20 Adventure I will be completing by the 6/1/12 deadline:

Opening Scene Outline
1.               Traveling to the major port town of Che’grim
A.               Party meets a band of bards on the road about 10 miles from town
1.                First Impression: Cheerful group of traveling merchants/artists
2.                Group of 3 and a bodyguard
3.                All exchange pleasantries and offer song, dance and trade
B.                Exchange goods
1.                Eclectic cache of items (non-magical)
2.                Pleasant trading experience (average prices)
3.                Both parties wish each other well and vow to meet again later
4.                Bards depart toward the foothills
C.               Meet GRIK as he is tracking a clan of necromancers
1.                First Impression: Aggressive and pious
2.                He is headstrong and wary of the party members
3.                Party does not have a good meeting
4.                GRIK hastily departures after a curt description of the wizards
a)     Descriptions do NOT match the bards and this encounter
        is meant to falsely foreshadow events with the bards
b)     He requests the party send word to the Abby if they learn more

Thanks again for checking out Forcing the Issue, please leave a comment or post your own thoughts on outlines.  Click some links, read some old posts, rate and comment to your hearts content.  It helps me to write more interesting articles and points to sections that would otherwise perish from lack of engagement. 

Plus, look forward to a new page of reviews and recommendations - In the mean time check out the eclectic mix of strong reviews at Kronicles of KD.  Rate and leave comments for the reviews if you visit...

Coming up later this will is the rebuttal... The Free-Writer Strikes Back!


1 comment:

  1. They both have their own uses; I like details and I like outlines, but I also like room to maneuver. I don't always begin with the end in mind, I probably should - even when it doesn't quite matter how I get to that end, just that it's that get there that matters. Otherwise it could just be pointless writing, unless that is the point. Spewing words to figure out why I felt like writing...or to analyze a feeling...I still say, try to begin with the end in mind. Whether it's outline or free-write.