Below are the tools that I use to build a story and start my novel. In my imagination, I know what the final chapter and what the ending looks like. I use these tools to deconstruct that story and tear down all the parts.
Tools needed: What three items when put together forced the story to be written? For example, a gun, a whiskey bottle and a car. How about an antique brooch, a handwritten letter, and a pair of shoes? Why was something at some place.
The brooch was found on shreds of fabric on a skeleton when someone dug out dirt for a foundation on a house.
Stop and go search on archeological digs. Why was a dig on a mastodon stopped when something was found?
A friend of mine went to buy a 1969 El Camino many years ago. After he had sat in it for a minute, he got out and shivered. On the way home, without the car, he told me that someone had died in that car. He was not going to drive with another person in the car. Now it becomes a murder/homicide mystery as to why someone died in that car.
Preparation: Rough outline either on the PC or drawn by hand. Make a handwritten outline down the page with Roman numerals 1 through 12. Be sure to put the A through E below each numeral. That is your bare frame outline. The research done here will make the story move realistically and accurate. This is the 30,000 feet view.
- Come up with a scenario whereby two or three central characters are engaged in a life or death struggle. They are trying to overcome a huge problem.
- Someone dies trying to solve the problem.
- Secret about character 1 is revealed. Causes conflict.
- Secret about character 2 is revealed. Causes conflict.
- Secret about character 3 is revealed. Causes conflict.
- Secret about character 4 is revealed. Causes conflict. Someone dies here.
- Secret about character 5 is revealed. Causes conflict.
- Other minor character interferes in the solution.
- The girl or love interest is put in danger, such as kidnapped.
- The hero fails to rescue the girl and feels that all is lost.
- Deepest despair, darkest moment for hero. Nobody can help. The last set of bad things happen to the good guy.
- Hero discovers complex, hidden solution. Good guy kills/harms/captures the bad guy. Good guy gets girl. Happily, ever after.
Who and Where: Draw me a picture with images of the characters and locations.
Character 1 – male/female, location 1. Print out a page with the character’s name, any information about them that you know now, and their location right now. Be sure to make a “History” heading down the middle of the page and put in 5 sentences about the secret in their past.
Character 2 – male/female, location 1. Same thing. Insert their picture onto the page and list out the sentences about them. Be sure to make a “History” heading down the middle of the page and put in 5 sentences about the secret in their past.
Frame Up the Incidents: This is the 5-scene layout of major incidents. The entire story is built around these. Pick out five characters and give each of them some dastardly wicked event in their past. Characters 1 and 2 recognize each other but don’t acknowledge each other. Characters 3 and 4 are friends because they committed an unknown crime together.
Write the Character Sheet: Fill in the details on each character profile that contain where he is now, what happened in the past to make him this way and supposition. Show how that man got that scar. Show why that woman won’t ride a Greyhound bus.
Overall Story Scene Location: Identify indoors or outdoors. Is it a part of the country? Some stories take place in the front seat of a car in a rainstorm. Maybe it is a general store, the saloon, and the barn at a ranch. There is no dialogue here, just very detailed descriptions of the location. For example, this story takes place aboard the interplanetary transport Celestial traveling from the Fordham Nine to Station Cheyenne on Bergen.
Character Scene Location: For each of the Who and Where characters listed above, you will write out the scene location for their major incident. The swing on the old oak at the country house. Crossing the storm-swollen Green River. The ballroom at the St. Regis hotel. Be sure to include what the character saw, smelled, and heard.
Minor supporting character: This is the first interview with a person who knew one of the five characters. You won’t see this minor supporting character anywhere else in the manuscript. They show up or come in to say what they know and then disappear.
For example, the dry cleaner found something in the pocket of the murder victim’s coat when he dropped it off. It is in a little bag attached to the hanger waiting for the victim to return. The restaurant waiter found the coat hanging on the back of the chair, apparently forgotten by the man. The waiter hung it up in the coat area. He glanced up when someone came in to get it but it wasn’t the original patron.
There should be a minimum of 5 minor supporting characters in the story. Two of them should contradict the others and cause conflict in the story.
Causes of Incidents: Here is where you get to describe the cause of each of the five incidents. There will be something in the background of each character that they “blame” for the way they are. For example, Hurricane Katrina caused looting, death and destruction. Wildfires in California spread ash and smoke into the neighboring states along with destruction of property.
Intelligence and Mentaility: One of the best things you can do is show how the hero or good guy takes in all this information and processes it to come up with a conclusion or opinion of his own. This is how the good guy reacts to the gathering intelligence on the characters. How is the good guy’s opinion formed about each character? People tell him/her things. Heshe reads stuff and learns things.
Supporting Non-Humans: Now you should make detailed description of the non-human portions (cats, dogs, parakeets, goldfish) in the story. Behaviors such as lazy, sleeping cats, fast horses, barking dogs.
Development of Setting: Let’s say the banker rode in on a Harley to Waco. Now let’s say that the attorney arrived in a limousine in Waco. The client arrived in a helicopter to Waco. Let’s figure out why all of them are in Waco. Everybody comes in from somewhere else for a purpose at a location. What are the (sounds, sights, smells, weather, time of day, tastes.)
Deleted Scenes, Characters and Dialogue: Make a folder on your hard drive or a folder where you store your written notes for deletions. Label is as an archived dialogue and text of scenes deleted from the story.
From an online example: The Winters Business Outline
- Jefferson Mackenzie Winters is the prosperous owner of a freight hauling business and general stores.
- Competing for Mack’s daughter, Samantha, truck driver Rob sabotages recovering alcoholic store manager Frankie, and takes his job.
- Several of the Winters’ freight trucks have been repeatedly robbed of freight, and Frankie is suspected.
- The also-alcoholic sheriff does not take any action on the robberies, preferring to cut a break to a drinking buddy.
- Big city buyer, Lamont tried to buy the profitable general stores and the freight-hauling business for a low price, but Winters refuses the offer and discusses the property’s true value with Samantha.
- Samantha is intrigued by Lamont’s New York-educated son, Phillip, who proposes marriage.
- However, one night while doing inventory, there is a holdup and Phillip runs rather than protect and defend Samantha.
- Winters is fatally injured in the holdup.
- Winters has bequeathed his worldly goods to his older sister in Boston, MA so that she may take care of Samantha, but the sister dies, too.
- The Lamonts pretend that Winters had agreed to sell the business to Lamont Sr, but Samantha knows better.
- Samantha’s Texas cousin, Susan brings in an attorney, Bilderbrude to try to seize the freight hauling and stores business.
- Bilderbrude and Susan insist that the freight -hauling business is dying out and the stores are losing money every month, and that Samantha should sell the business, so Susan offers Samantha a small amount of money.
- Bilderbrude and Susan show their ignorance about freight and merchandising business.
- Frankie encourages Samantha that the business is worth more than Bilderbrude and Susan say, and advises her that the Lamonts are often poking around in the local store.
- The Texas lawyer, Bilderbrude finally announces that Samantha has no property rights due to the will of Jefferson Mackenzie Winters.
- Opposing townsfolk join sides and plot to capture and torture Frankie for the highway robberies of the freight trucks, but Samantha warns him in time.
- Frankie discovers there are papers that will prove Samantha’s claim to the business and that Susan has seduced Rob to obtain his help.
- Frankie actually does rob one of the freight trucks but only to grab the box of papers supporting Samantha.
- Samantha recognizes Frankie at the robbery, and is devastated because she has started to have feelings for him.
- Samantha orders the Lamonts, Susan and Bilderbrude off the property and fires Rob.
- Frankie has the Mexican, Victorio deliver the important papers to Diana, showing that Susan was not related to Jefferson Mackenzie Winters and thus not entitled to the property.
- The Lamonts and Bilderbrude join forces and try to intimidate Samantha into abandoning the business and force her away.
- Frankie catches Rob robbing one of the freight trucks on a back road and has him watched while in town, but Rob bribes the sheriff and his friends.
- Rob sneaks in and kidnaps Samantha and heads for a quickie marriage in Las Vegas.
- Rob claims to be rescuing her, but Samantha knows she does not love him. Frankie follows her doggedly, and eventually rescues her. They return to town, stop the illegal title transfers and announce their impending marriage.