The Three-Legged Outline

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Can I do that with coffee?

No, I’m not drunk. That’s what the chapter head says. Geesh!

“Not all Outlines are created equal.”

Many of us have tried some form of outline. Whether it was of our own creation or one we found online or in a store doesn’t matter. Some found outlining to be restrictive, so they tend to chuck it and go back to what they were comfortable with. No matter our issues with outlining and why it didn’t work for us, Ms. Hawker believes we failed because we did it wrong. OUCH! Judgmental much.

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Who knew? There is a right way.

In her words, there is absolutely a right way to outline a book. One that allows us to be creative but gives us a design to follow. Hmmm, okay, I’m curious now.

While I am still interested, you need to get ready for our trip through this section. Grab your copy of Take Off Your Pants! by Libbie Hawker, rinse out your cuppa and get a fresh fill. Yes, you NEED to wash that thing once in a while. Okay, so what nibbles do we want today? Well, my doc recently told me to watch my weight. Here I am eating bacon and watching my weight.

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Mmmmmm…bacon.

Hey- he didn’t say how to watch it, just to watch it. Writers, it is all about the words. I hate it when a large person who smells of cigarette smoke believes he has the right to tell me to watch my weight. Was he looking in a mirror? Anywho…on with the show.

Okay, our outline must follow a particular structure. A three-sided form to be exact. Apparently, as we read further, we will begin to see how the structure is shaped.  We can begin to visualize our outline by seeing the five elements we looked at yesterday, the Story Core. Perch those suckers at the top of a three-legged stool. Steady…steady…you can do it!

Image result for three-legged stool
Looks like something we used at the kid’s table at holiday meals. I may have fallen once or twice.

This stool is meant to hold the Core of your story. The idea is, if a leg of a stool was missing the chair would fall over. Much like your plotline. If you are missing a key “leg” it will not stand on its own. Each leg is equally important. Make sure you don’t shortchange one leg in favor of the others. A short leg will cause your story to be off balance. Build each leg of your story with care and equal attention.

The Three-Legged Outline consists of:

  • Character Arc
  • Theme
  • Pacing

These are the legs of your stool. Ms. Hawker and I will break down each leg in the chapters to come. Please note that one important point is missing… “plot.” Dum-dum-duuuum!

There is a reason why she left it out. She believes it should be the last step in our process. Many writers picture stringing together a bunch of scenes to create a plot. The idea is to set up events in a logical order, to knit together key points to allow cause and effect to play out in the story. This is important but it needs to be our last step. Plot is not the same thing as a story. Plot is considered a part of the construction of the story. If you focus on your three-legged stool, you can change details of the plot numerous times and ways and still have the same story. This is where that “wiggle room” concept comes into play Ms. Hawker spoke of earlier in the book. You can outline and still have creativity.

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Don’t worry. As we move through the book a fourth leg will be added. Plot. Once again, equal attention will be paid to this new leg…but not just yet.

Polish your sparkle and keep twirling.

Find joy. Be joy. Enjoy.

I’m always looking for new friends!

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