This year, I plan on succeeding again. How? I plan on coming prepared.
Outlines are a somewhat tricky issue, being that there is the constant debate between pantser and plotter. However, outlines do have their use, even for the pantsers out there!
Personally, I like discovering new things as I write. I like letting the story grow organically when I dive in, otherwise it does not feel right. Sounds like a pantser, right? Not entirely. Knowing where you are going does not dampen the discovery, entirely. Yes, you know the name of your final location, and a few of the stops on the way there, but not what those places are going to be like, or what will come from them. Who knows! Maybe a detour will happen along the way.
Even with an outline, there is a LOT of room for discovery. Plus, outlines aren't the law. You can break them at any time, so don't sweat about it. It's merely a suggestion, not a cage.
There are two different ways I have been taught to outline for a screenplay while I was in university, and I still find them useful, today. In fact, I'm getting ready to do the beat sheet for my various script ideas, which will ultimately help me decide which project I am going to focus on for this April's main event.
The first way is the 8 Beat Structure. A lot of movies from Hollywood can be measured by this; in fact, some blockbusters follow it so strictly you can set your watch by the beats. So, here they are!
THE 8 BEAT STRUCTURE
THE INCITING INCIDENT: The normal world has been established, and something, or someone, has arrived to disturb the balance, knocking the protagonist out of the normal world, or opening their eyes to a greater world outside of their own.
THE DRAMATIC QUESTION: The audience finds out what, specifically, is at stake, or what the protagonist is striving for. The question is asked: will the protagonist achieve their goals.
EMOTIONAL HOOK: The audience is shown why they should care about the protagonist and the goal. The stakes are raised.
PUBLIC/PRIVATE MOMENT: This can be one of two things, or both at the same time. Either something public, something in the world at large, affects the protagonist on a personal level, or something extremely private to the protagonist suddenly becomes public. The stakes are, again, raised.
REVERSAL RECOGNITION: The protagonist goes through a major change of some sort. This is often where the rug is pulled out from underneath them. They realize that their goal is something deeper, or that they were on the wrong track after all, or that they never wanted the goal in the first place, but wanted something else, which becomes the new goal.
CRISIS: The protagonist hits rock bottom. It seems like they have never been further from achieving their goal. The obstacles seem like too much. However, they have to soldier on.
CLIMAX: The protagonist must now face the biggest obstacle in the way of them getting their goal. This could be a major character flaw they need to overcome, or an actual villain. Either way, this is the final battle, and they will either rise victorious or fail.
RESOLUTION: The world and/or the protagonist is/are different and has/have been permanently altered by the course of the story. The goal is either achieved or lost forever. The story is over.
Something to remember about the 8 Beat Structure is that each beat may have the 8 beats inside of it. That's right, the inciting incident also has its own emotional hook, public/private moment, climax, etc, etc. Every scene has its own beats, as well. These can be used to plan the bigger strokes all the way down to each and every scene in the script. It's entirely up to you.
The next method I learned while at university is the 12 Part Hero's Journey, a la Joseph Cambell. Yes, Cambell. This is pulled, structurally, from mythology, and has been used in stories from the beginning of time. In fact, you can follow along with StarWars: A New Hope using these beat sheet!
THE HERO’S JOURNEY
THE ORDINARY WORLD: The protagonist is in the ordinary world, life is normal, and everything is going as planned.
THE CALL TO ADVENTURE: Something is not quite right in the ordinary world, and the protagonist is offered a chance to leave and make everything right again.
REFUSAL TO THE CALL: The protagonist has been taught to fear anything outside the ordinary world, or to fear failure. As such, the protagonist refuses to leave the ordinary world.
MEETING WITH THE MENTOR: A person from the outside world, from the “special world,” suddenly comes into the protagonist’s life and urges him to take action. Sometimes, the mentor will even force the protagonist to leave.
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD: The protagonist, will the help of the mentor, leaves the ordinary world, crossing the threshold into the special world. The protagonist’s eyes are opened to the fact that there is so much more out there.
TESTS, ALLIES, AND ENEMIES: On his adventure, the protagonist will encounter a variety of tests and obstacles, as well as meet new allies and enemies.
APPROACHING THE INMOST CAVE: This is a scene of dread. The protagonist must face what they fear most, what made them refuse the call to action in the first place. They must overcome that fear.
THE ORDEAL/DEATH: The protagonist is faced with death. Someone close to them, such as the mentor, may die, or they will have a close brush with death as well. Or, the death can me metaphorical. Either way, the event will permanently change them.
THE BOON: The protagonist has been horribly changed by the death. No one else understands how he feels, and he is not willing to let them. This is his burden to bear, and he does so alone.
THE ROAD BACK: The protagonist must return to his allies with this understanding. He needs to overcome the burden of death, no matter how hard the road will be.
THE RESURRECTION: The protagonist has come to a great realization or has obtained more knowledge, and thus, has been transformed into the person needed to set the world right again. With this transformation, he will be able to triumph over all obstacles or die trying.
THE RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR: The protagonist returns to the normal world, but because of his metamorphosis, no longer belongs. The world has been set right, the ordinary world is once again ordinary, but he cannot remain. Or, if the protagonist died in the final confrontation, his remains are returned home, where he can be put to rest.
As you can see, both are slightly different, but also overlap in many ways. The 8 Beats cannot fit with either story, nor can the 12 Part Journey; I'll have to figure out, as I'm brainstorming, which structure would be more beneficial to the story I am trying to tell.
And that, I must emphasize, is what really matters. What is best for the story? Will pantsing entirely do it more justice? Or will plotting? Will outlining? What kind of structure should I use? All of these questions depend on the type of story I am trying to tell, and I'm not about to try to cram my story into an outline just so it will "fit."
With that, I'm going to get back to brainstorming!
Tiffany "Kysis" Tackett