Horrors of Horrors! Themes and Outlining!
When I first started writing, I read I needed to write the book's theme, and I should do it before I wrote the story. I did not even know what a theme for a fiction novel was. I knew what themes were for high school and college papers as they were assigned by the instructor, but for fiction? I just wanted to write a story that I thought was fun. What kind of theme is that?
Articles on writing said the theme helps to keep the author on track going in the same direction toward the end. Other articles said a writer can change the theme in the middle or the end of the manuscript. So, I thought, why not wait until the end to begin with, which I do.
Some writers call the theme the moral of the story, some authors say it is the point of the story. I view it as a short summary of the story.
In summary, what is a theme? The theme is the point of the story or summary ( as I see it). It can be what you want the reader to take away from your novel. The theme is about the conflict or conflicts. It can be decided at any time, in the beginning, during, or after the story is finished.
This is the story of ______________________________________(finish with 25 words or less).
Or, This story of _______________________________________(finish with 25 words or less).
This is helpful to do if you need to write a short blurb for your book.
My opinion is if you don't know the theme of your story, don't sweat it. Write your creative fiction anyway, and enjoy doing it.
My theme for the book I am working on now could be the following.
This is the story of powerful and wealthy men justifying their illegal actions as necessary for their survival. I may change this when I finish the book.
Horrors! Outlining Your Story!
Outlining your fiction novel is not the old Roman Numeral system taught in grade school. Yippee! There are several ways to outline your creative baby. I will present some ideas. You can try one or perhaps make one that works for you.
Most authors advise new writers to outline their novels before they begin to write. Unfortunately, you(like me) may not know the whole story. So, you can outline the parts, you know. And, if I may dare say, "Horrors of Horrors, you could outline your story after you finish the entire novel. Any missing material will show up for you to fill in. Do what you are comfortable with for getting your scenes and chapters down, in any order you want.
Some examples of outlines are:
Number One Method:
To me, this is the worse one that has been recommended, but it may work for you.
1. Write down all possible book titles. You can change it later.
2. List all the characters and make up their complete biographies, even if you won't need the information in your story. This would include birthplace and year, education, religion, race, work, anything you can think of for any real person.
3. List each chapter and give it a title. Write the first sentence of each chapter. Then outline each chapter.
I can not do this method.
Number Two Method
1. Outline of __________________________ (Name of Novel).
2. The Complication (internal,or external, or both). Use three words. The first word is a noun, the second is an action verb and the third is a direct object.
__________________________ ____________________ ____________________
3. Follow this with as many chapter outlines as you need to develop the complication using the same format as above for each chapter. Chapter One, Two, Three, and so on. Noun, action verb, and direct object.
4. The last chapter is the resolution of the problem. Again, it would be a noun, action verb, and direct object. The chapter must show what the character learned.
Outline of Betty Fights for Her Rights (Title)
The Complication Company fires Betty Noun, verb, direct object.
Chapter One Depression paralysis Betty
Chapter Two Betty regains confidence.
Chapter Three Betty sues the company.
Resolution Betty regains job.
This method does not work for me as I don't know how many chapters I will need.
Number Three Method
1. Use one, two, three, or four-word titles for each chapter (use few words for chapter names).
2. Go back and write a short summary paragraph for each chapter. If you don't know what each chapter will be about, put in the ones you know.
3.You should put the protagonist, the antagonist, setting, and the conflict in the first chapter.
4. Later chapters explain the complications, obstacles, emotional challenges, etc. and how they are faced by the characters. The last chapter is the resolution and the growth of the protagonist.
5. Reminder: You do not need to do the outlining in order. If you know part of the middle, do that first leaving room for the beginning. Or start at the end. This method can go on individual index cards for each chapter so they can be moved around.
I can't do this method either. Planning chapters and their names and summaries when I have bits and pieces not joined is too frustrating. But it might work for you.
Number Four Method
1. Write a Headline, like a newspaper headline, to state briefly what the story is about. This is the theme.
2. Beginning of story: What are the problems?
3. Middle of the Novel: What are the obstacles to be overcome to solve the problem? (plot)
4. End of your creative baby: Solution
Once again, this is not for me unless I use it after I have written the novel.
Number Five Method (My Method)
I see my story in pieces (like watching a movie), and I write the sections I see, and later I put them in order and put in transitions, so they flow. The characters talk to me, usually late at night, and tell me their side of the story. After everything is written, I divide the story into scenes and chapters where they seem to fall naturally. As I do this, the theme of the story becomes clear to me. Sometimes when I finish a major section or the entire manuscript, I will do a simple outline. If gaps show up, I will fill them in. This is why I am not a famous author.
To sum up, do what is comfortable for you. There is not one that is perfect for everyone.
I hope you have enjoyed the journey on writing tips. I wish you all the best in whatever writing you do. Please, contact me if you have questions, ideas, suggestions, etc. I do want to hear from you. If you send me your short story or part of a longer story, I will send you my gnomes and trolls short story. Stay Well. God Bless Pat