A Finished Outline!

Last post I gave Kristen Lamb kudos for introducing me to James Scott Bell’s LOCK system. Applying the LOCK system to my seed idea gave me the confidence to dedicate months of hard work to my seed idea. (Who wants to spend months on a rough draft only to fizzle out at 50K words and realize your original idea was…well cr@p?)

Today I’m going to give Kristen more kudos for her blog post Structure Part 8 – Balancing the Scenes that Make Up Your Novel. Here’s what she says:

All scenes need conflict. Conflict is the fuel that powers the story’s forward momentum.

Bingo. Conflict. Just what I’ve been looking for.

Kristen once again points to James Scott Bell’s book Plot & Structure. In it, he defines scenes as having three parts: Hook, Intensity, and Prompt (HIP).

The “Hook” is what interests the reader from the beginning. “Intensity” raises the stakes, and “Prompt” leaves the reader with questions that propel them into the next scene.

Further down in the post, Kristen cites a method she borrowed from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

On each note card, I write the location, then a one-sentence header about what the scene is about. Then there is a neat little symbol for conflict (><) I use to show who is in conflict in this particular scene. Then I do a micro conflict lock. Who wants what? I also use an emotional symbol to note change +/-. Characters should be changing emotionally. If your protag enters on a high note, crush it. Enters on a low? Give some hope.

She goes on to give an example from one of her works in progress.

Rewinding a bit, in my post Growing a Novel I ended on a sour note:

Now I had seven beat sheets on which to begin organizing my plot elements. Not surprisingly, I started out strong and fizzled out quickly. Why? My story idea didn’t include enough conflict…

I am happy to report that when I applied Blake Snyder’s technique to my story, I was able to create a complete outline of the scenes. Woo hoo! Applying the technique made the process fun. It was like putting together a puzzle, figuring out how to make the pieces fit.

And I found it’s a lot less intimidating to look at a blank note card than it is to face an entire blank page, or worse, and entire blank notebook. Asking myself the questions “What is my main conflict in this scene?”, “Who are my major players?”, “How does my protagonist change during this scene?”, and “What in this scene prompts the reader forward to the next scene?” helped me maintain momentum until the end.

When I felt a little stalled I simply asked “What’s at stake?” “How can I intensify the conflict?”, “What does my protagonist hope for, and how can I crush that hope?”.

Here’s an example note card from my story:

Dulcie’s Den

Dulcie tells her husband Lora’s left his best friend and that Lora and Wayne want to stay for the week leading to Dulcie’s sister’s wedding.

>< Dulcie and Todd Dulcie wants them to stay. Todd wants them to leave. +/- Dulcie can't turn away her cousin, but Todd doesn't want Dulcie's ex-boyfriend under his roof. Todd agrees to allow them to stay until he gets home; Lora comes in and tells Dulcie she and Wayne are meeting some mutual friends at the local bar.

I have 46 more note cards tucked away in a container, waiting to be expanded into actual scenes. Good news is, I’ve finally started writing my rough draft. Next post I’ll share a bit of my first chapter with you.