Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Following an outline
That stained glass picture above of George Washington at the signing of the Declaration of Independence would be a pile of pretty glass that didn't make anything recognizable. Put it in a frame, put some glue around the pretty pieces and it becomes a picture. Something recognizable. Some pictures are prettier than others, but they all have structure. An outline gives you structure. You don't run too log because you have a finite number of chapters you're trying to fit the thing into. You don't ramble too much on one subject because you know you have to move the story along to get to the point you're making in the next chapter. They force you to condense. They force you to cut what's irrelevant. They prop up the pretty glass so that it's displayed in the best light.
I wasn't a believer in outlines until this chapter. It's like a light bulb went off. I went into it wondering what would be interesting about the chapter, and then I saw the outline. To me, who wants to wallow in the chapters with the fireworks and hold them up screaming, "Look at this! Isn't this cool?!" Those chapters aren't important because they aren't the climax. They're not the fireworks. But to the reader, who isn't as intimate with the characters as I am, who doesn't know how they'll react when the shit hits the fan, who doesn't know them as well as I do, they are the frame. And the reader will know it. He'll know that it's not the big scene. But hopefully he'll want to know what happened that lead to the big scene.
I've skipped chapters in books before. Skipped over them and went to a scene that interested me. Then I went back. I go impatient as a reader. But the good writers got me to go back and read those interstitial chapters. And the made the story better.
Yeah, I'll outline from now on.