I mentioned the Snowflake Method of outlining in yesterday’s post, as an example of what I’m trying to do backwards, but I the idea stuck in my head and I decided to give it a whirl this morning. Could I distill my story down to a single sentence of 15 or fewer words. I wasn’t easy and I struggled with adjectives and prepositional phrases, but I think I finally got the soul of the story:
Grief turns to vengeance when a girl discovers the hidden magic of her world.
That’s it. And while so much of this story (a more honest take would be “so much of this world”) is in my head already, I feel like this sentence concisely hits the single thing I’m looking to say. Let’s break it down:
- Grief: suggests a trauma that takes place either right before the book starts or in its first scenes.
- Turns to: a transition, something shifts her perspective from internal to external, though her emotions are still self-centered (objectively)
- Vengeance: a call back to the incident that wasn’t just traumatic but deeply personal and unwarranted, a call to justice
- Discovers: it will be an important distinction if she discovers this through active or passive means
- The hidden magic: “hidden” does some work here by suggesting either something that is purposefully suppressed, unknown for other reasons, or lost to time
- Of her world: When you are working with a narrative with a central actor, their eventual change in worldview is catalyze externally.
She needs to see that her world is fundamentally no what she thought it was. (Conversely, I think, with what Sarra Cannon calls the Episodic series character in her How to Write a Series videos, the main character changes little over the course of many stories, but it is their existing worldview that draws the reader in.)
I think what happens when outlining and worldbuilding is that we get lost in the majesty of it all. We want to walk around our created world like chroniclers, archiving all the things that make this place unique, even if it can only be a mirror of our own world, and saving it for posterity. Using this method on The Forest Book has given me a single idea to remind me what my story is really about, like a beacon for when I get lost in the wilderness. There is so much I’ve already built but won’t necessarily need to tell this first story, and that’s okay.
I’ve moved on to step two of the method and built out the story premise into a paragraph, with one sentence for each the introduction and conclusion and three major disastrous plot points for the story. At this point it’s harder to keep my action down to a single sentence and, I will admit, that I’ve snuck in a short sentence here or there for clarity (for who, I don’t know), but I think this helps me build up from that singular idea. I won’t be sharing that with you – spoilers. 🙂
Tomorrow I’ll move on to the next steps and work on building up my characters. I already know so much about them, but perhaps I only know them at the surface level. It’s time for some deep conversations and I’m excited to see what turns up.