Outline Your Novel by K. M. Weiland

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Intellectual Humiliation

Confront your own ignorance.

Outline Your Novel by K. M. Weiland

Map your way to success

Types of Outline

Mind map

Write the central theme or event at the center of your paper and surround it with a cluster of related subjects.

Pictorial Outline

“Cast your characters”, scout likely settings, and collect pertinent props.


Draw a map of your world to keep track of where your characters go and what the world looks like.

Perfect Review

Be specific, make the review tell you why he loved the story. What are the best parts? What makes this piece really shine? Be thorough, cover every aspect of your story you can think of: story, characters, dialogue, themes, and climax. Be extravagant, praise your story to the skies.

Outlines Tools

The “What If” Questions

Ask yourself questions about your story that start with what if and then about your characters. 

The Premise Sentence

Once you have your general “what if” question settled, condense that premise in a detailed premise sentence. 

Pre-Outline Questions

1. What are the four or five big moments that will occur in the plot?
2. Can you think of at least two complications for each of these moments?
3. Will these complications push your characters in ways that make them uncomfortable?
4. What additional settings will these complications demand?
5. Which characters will be the protagonist?
6. Which character will be affected most by the inciting events?
7. Does this character have at least tow major problems or anxieties in his life? Which offers the most potential for conflict and drama?
8. How does this problem affect other characters?

General Sketches: Connecting the Dots

Ask yourself lots of “what ifs” and “why”. Why is the character behaving this way? Why is she bitter about the past? What if he makes radically different decisions at the crucial point in the plot?

The Scene List

Summarize Your Scenes

Open your notebook and summarize everything you know about the scenes you already have mapped out. 

List Your Scenes

List your scenes that you summarize in the previous step and try to make a timeline. 

Highlight the Problem Areas

In your scene summary highlight problems or areas of the plot where the details are sketchy.  

Connecting the Dots

Once you have the problems outlined sit down and answer the questions you didn’t answer in the rough outline: it’s important that you free write. Don’t sensor yourself.

Ask Questions

When you get stuck, remember to ask yourself questions. Instead of stating the problem “the princess is trapped in the high tower”, phrase it as a question “how can I get the princess out of the high tower”. 

Key Story Factors

Motive Desire and Goals

Your character must want something and want it badly. Otherwise, he’s not someone readers will find him interesting to follow him around for pages. He should have one goal, usually inspired by inciting event and often motivated further by strong beliefs or past experiences, that will carry him throughout the book possibly till the end. This is the goal the author must frustrate at every turn throughout the book. 

Creating a solid, memorably character arc requires several important ingredients. 

1. Start out with a clear idea of who the character is at the beginning of the story. What doesn’t he care about? What does he believe? How does he behave in certain situations?
2. Open with the character beginning from a place of imperfection or incomplete. 
3. Give the reader concrete examples throughout the book, but particularly early on, of the behavior and beliefs the character needs to change. 
4. Give the character the tool he needs to improve himself.
5. Save the moment of revelation so it coincides with the emotional and physical climax.
6.  Droves the character’s inner changes through his actions.


1. Write a list of ten worst things that could ever happen to your character.
2. Evaluate your sciences for frustration. If the scene lags behind grabs your list and incert of the worst things that could happen to it. 

Ideas for Conflict/Frustration

1. Personality clashes.
2. Unexpected situations.
3. High strokes. 
4. Inner and outer battles. 


The theme is the lesson your character will learn (or failed to learn) by the end of the story. To discover the theme ask yourself the following questions. 

1. What is the main character’s internal conflict?
2. Which of the main character’s views will change as a result from the story’s event? How and why?
3. How will the main character demostrarte his respective views and attitudes at the beginning and the end of the story?
4. Is there any particular symbolism that can reinforce the theme and the character’s attitudes towards it?
5. How can you use the subtext to exemplify the theme, so you won’t have to spell it out for the reader?

Character Sketches: Exploring Backstories

To create character backstory try to start at the inciting event. The inciting even is the moment your character’s world is forever changed. It’s the first domino in the line of dominos that form your plot. 

Ask yourself questions such as:

1. What events the character’s past caused the inciting event?
2. What shaped the character in such a way to make him respond to the inciting events as he does?
3. What unresolved issues form his past can further complicate the spiral of events that result form the inciting event?

Inciting events have in common is that they accomplish the following:

1. Directly influence the story to follow. 
2. Create conflict.
3. Grab the reader’s attention.
4. Should be followed by action.

How to Write a Backstory

The general statement is what  the character looks like to others and from afar. It doesn’t have any details but can give you enough information to continue forward. The backstory is not set in stone though, it can be changed as the story progresses.

After writing your general statement, you can progress to an explanation of the character’s past: who are his parents? What are their backstories? What has happened in the past to make them the way he is? Explore relationships with other characters, seen and unsee. Explore what the character’s education was? Where has he traveled? Where has he worked? The most important part about your character that you should part about your character’s epoch (a period of time in history or a person’s life, typically one marked by notable events or particular characteristics). 

Keep in mind:

1. Hint early on that your character has a backstory, but don’t revela what it is until the last possible moment, right before the information becomes crucial.
2. Instead of indulging in lengthy flashbacks scenes, present the backstory in a powerful punch with as few words as necessary. 

Character Interview

Does he like his home?
What does his name mean to him?
Place of birth:
What was important to the people who raised him?
Economic status growing up:
Ethnic background:
Paces lived:
Current address and phone number:
Favorite subject in school:
Special training:
Lives with:
Fights with:
Spends time with:
Wishes to spend time with:
Who spends on him and why?
People he most admires:
How do you people view him:
People he most admires:
Overall outlook on life:
Relationships with god:
Does he like himself:
What, if anything, would he like to change about his life?
Is he lying to himself about something?
What personal demons haunt him?
Optimist/pessimistic about what?
Real/feigned (about character):
Morality level:
Confidence level:
Typical day:
Physical appearance:
Physical build:
Head shape:

What people notice first:
How would he describe himself:
Personality type:
Strongest/weakest characteristics traits: 
How can the flip side of his strong point be a weakness:

How much self control and self/discipline does he have:
What makes him angry/sad/happy:
What people/places/situations does he avoid:
What people like most about him:
Interest and favorites:
Political views:
Favorite food/drinks:
Favorite music/drinks/movies:
Favorite color:
Childhood daydreams/current day dreams:
Best way to spend the weekends:
Typical expressions:
When happy:
When sad:
When sad:
When frustrated:
When afraid:
Most used fácil expression and gestures:
Laughs or jeers at:
Ways to annoy this person:
Ways to cheer this person:
Hopes and dreams:
Greatest success:
Biggest trauma:
Biggest embarrassment:
Cares about most:
If he could do one thing to succeed what would it be?
He’s kind of persons who:
What do you love most about him:
Why will the reader sympathize with him right away:
How is he ordinary/extraordinary:
How is his situation ordinary or extraordinary:
Core needs:
Anecdote (defining moment):

Discover Your Settings

To make a setting compelling enough that it makes the scenery a character on itself you must ask the following questions:

1. Is your setting inherent to your story?
2. How does your character view his settings?
3. Does your setting affect the mood?
4. Choose your primary setting wisely.
5. Choose a setting that allows your plot and story to be enhanced.

Interview about your setting:

What does the landscape look like?
What kind of plants grow there?
What’s the climate?
What king of animals are present in this world?
What kind of societies are present in this world?
What kind of clothing is in style?
What moral and religious values define people’s world view?
What languages do they speak?
What form of government is currently in place?
How advance is tech oncology?
What form of long distance communication are used?
What modes of transportation are used?
How has technology affected entertainment and the arts?
How has technology affected weaponry and mode of warfare?
How advance are the files of medicine and science?
What are the natural laws of this world?
What natural laws are different from our world? (Gravity)
Is there a magical force in your world?
How does it work? What are the limitations?What kind of people populate the world?
Are there different races?
How do customs differ between people of different races and citizens or different districts?
Do the ethnic factions get along?
What’s the history of this world?
How many year as of recorded history are available?
What historical epochs have shaped society?

The Extended Outline: Creating a Story

The extended outline is where the plotting beings in earnest. Step by step you’re going to map, in as much detail as possible (though without dialogue or narrative) every road stop in your story. Let yourself wander on your planning but at the same time keep the characters motivations and goals a the forefront. 

What Kind of Story Are You Writing?

Now’s the time to make concrete decisiones about the form this story will take. What audience are you writing it for? What feel or tone do you want to present i the prose? Will it be fast-paced or leisurely? Will you write in the past or present tense? Try to choose the POV of the character with the most stake.

Structuring Your Novel


– Begin with the main character’s o your readers immediately know who this story is about.
– Show your readers your main character’s “normal world”. 
– Show readers your main character’s in a “characteristic moment”. Try to create prominent personality trait and an activity that will feature trait and an activity that will feature later in the story.  
– Begin with movement. From the first moment readers see him, the main character should be in action not sitting around watching the scenery. 
– Give readers a reason to empathize with your main character. Is he funny? Sweet? Brave?
– Give the main character a desire or a goal. What does he want in life? What does he believe he must accomplish in order to achieve that desire?
– Create an inciting event that forever changes the main character’s status quo. Rock the character’s world in a way he didn’t see coming. 
– Force the main character to react to the inciting event. How he chooses to react to it sets the tone for the story. 


– Bring the main character to anew understanding of himself (particularly his fatal flaw) and how he needs to become someone better to defeat the antagonist.
– Revive your main character at the last moment. Just as the reader thinks the main character is about to cave the pressure, let him bounce back.
– Transform the main character into a hero. He should dig deep inside, finds spark of extraordinaries and rise to the challenge. 
– Force the main character to responde in an unique way. How can he responde to climactic forces in a way distinctive to his personality.
– Show the main character defeating the opponent.
– Let the main character reach his goal.
– End with a memorable line. 

Three Fundamental Elements of Story


Humor not only possesses the power to entrega in the reader and endear him to the characters, it’s also essential in balancing the darker elements in a serious fictional situation.


Conflict translates into action. Action moves the story forward, inexorably, across the thematic arc to an inevitable conclusion. 


If stories are a reflection of the human experience, and if the human experience boils down to the interactions of other people, we should find the relationships at the heart of all fiction.

Make Every Scene Matter

Imagine every scene in your novel is a domino in the ground patter of your story. If the reader is going to be able to topple the pattern and see every domino fall, the author has to design his scenes so that each one directly influences those that follow. Every scene has to matter. If you write a scene that fails to influence the scenes that follow, you either have to delete it or come up with the way to make it better. 

Outline Backwards

Outlining has the point of giving you a road map, but the problem is that some times you don’t know whats going to happen next. Start at the end of the plot progression. To counter this, ask questions that will help you discover the plot development immediately preceding. How was the character hurt? Where was he hurt? Why did bad guys choose to do this to him? Why was he only injured instead of killed? How is he going to escape?

The Abbreviated Outline: Drawing Your Road Map

The abbreviated outline will keep you from having to read your extended outline every time you sit down to write. It will provide you an at-a-glance road map that highlights all the important stops along the way to your destination.

Chapter Breaks

1. Promise of conflicts.
Q: the hero has just been challenged to a duel.
Inherent question: will he survive?

2. A secret kept
Q: the héroe’s partner hides a letter. 
IQ: what’s in the confounded letter.

3. A mayor decision or vow.
Q: the hero swear to avenge his wife’s mother.
IQ: how will he go about it? Will he succeed? 

4. An announcement of a shocking event.
Q: the hero’s father dies.
IQ: how did he die? How is the hero going to react?

Control Pacing

Writing shorter sentences during action scenes contributes to a sense of tension and speed. If you want a scene to move quickly, think short. If you want it to move leisurely, lengthen the rhythm of your writing. The same holds true for scene and chapter lengths.

My rating:

This book in 3 key points

  1. Create a map where the main plot is the main idea.
  2. Use tools to define the plot by asking “What if?”
  3. Determine your characters and what arc they’re to accomplish throughout the story.

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