Working on Outline and Already Stuck

Day two of trying to flesh out the details of my outline and I’m still stuck with a block I can’t seem to shake off. 

The idea is that once I have this outline detailed I can just sit down, drop the characters in, and let them drive using the outline as the road map. I’ve always been a character driven style writer so sitting down and actually writing down the details of a plot…. is alien to me. I’ve never really been one to have more than “this the rough idea for my beginning, middle, and end” and let the characters sort out the rest.

Coming up with my Lester Dent’s Hero’s Journey blend template took me an entire day to do. Why this is so hard – okay BORING – for me I will never know, but it is. I guess I will always find it far more interesting to float around in the characters’ heads and let them do whatever it is they feel the need to do.

This time though I want to stretch my wings and become more than what I typically do. And this vague idea that’s been bubbling around inside needs a specific sort of telling. One that I can’t just let the characters free reign. I just wish this plot outline was easier to flesh out with details than it is. I don’t normally write mysteries of any kind but Thomas has always been this side character in my short stories that never really got much attention but keeps popping up. He always had some “fetch quest” to do that caused problems for the main in the story and he was a bit of a punk about it.

If you ever played an MMO then you are familiar with the concept of the repeatable quests for the sake of building up reputation to hopefully unlock better quests. Typically those repeatable quests require you to fetch something. Usually the process is horribly boring as hell and we are going to find Thomas in this type of limbo at the beginning of the story.

But in the short story series I never got around to exploring him. The series always had a modern fantasy feel to it with a supernatural twist while this character carries a steam punk western feel – which I admit I have never written. And of course everything I have ever imagined him dealing with has an element of horror or at the very least suspense. So how the hell do you blend all of this together and make it all work? You plan ahead. I know this, but it’s not my strength.

I think my real issue is the villain. It’s always the villain for me. I know who I would like it to be but I can never seem to make this one character to work on the page in my short stories. The entire Lester Dent’s format hinges on the villain essentially. His motives. His methods. His drive. It’s all on him and then it’s up to the hero how to respond and overcome. So in a way even though Thomas is the main character, the story is really about the villain. I have to be able to make the villain work. I have to know, deeply know, what makes the villain tick. Either I can scrap the classic big bad that never works on my pages, which I may just do, or I can come up with an entirely new villain – one custom to Thomas. If I want to commit to a series, a customized rival type of villain may be better suited.

The question is who and why?

7 thoughts on “Working on Outline and Already Stuck

  1. I think you should stick with the villain that you have. He is an awesome, complex and interesting villain. That’s why he’s hard to write, but I think that he’s worth it. And I think that this struggle your going through is a great sign that you are flexing your writing muscles and that is awesome since it is the way that you learn new skills. 🙂


    1. Well I surprised myself I think with the outline. I learned a couple of things about that character I didn’t know so I think I’m starting to understand better what makes him tick and why he does some of the things he does along with one other very important character that has a complicated relationship with him. I would go more into that but… *sigh* spoilers! And at any time in the writing process things can change. I know this and I don’t want to upset anyone. But because you have read my short stories involving some of these characters in the past – particularly the villain – I think you can understand what I’m getting at here just as I understand why you feel he is a complex character. It’s a delicate process to write him and have what’s going on in my head translate well onto paper.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. which is why I’m looking forward to reading! I’m confident that your first draft will be fun and interesting. And I know that what ever wrinkles there are you will figure out a way to smooth out once you tackle the second draft. *Gives Boisterous Cheer*


  2. “I’ve never really been one to have more than ‘this the rough idea for my beginning, middle, and end'”

    That’s usually all I have. That’s more than 80% of writers have, too, by the way. It’s probably all you need.

    Start writing. As you do, in your off hours, your non-writing hours, you will get great ideas. Jot them down and keep going. Soon enough a place will come for them to appear, and you’ll be ready. If not, maybe they weren’t meant for this story. Maybe they can be aimed at and squeezed in.

    I started a story with a single idea, that some unrelated stuff that happened was really related, and wrote 100,000 words in an amazing tale. As I revised it – after I wrote the 100k and let it rest – I cut out thousands of words and added thousands. The outline was: this odd stuff happened, and a guy finds out its all related, and then he has to do something about it.

    Beginning, middle, and end.

    I started to write that down, and, being a writer type, before I got the sentence finished, more stuff came to me. Oh, what if this happened? And what if that happened, too? A few hours later I had written 5000 words and had ideas for dozens of things that would later become chapters.

    The outline was simple. The details were what I did along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I quickly discovered during NaNoWriMo that I was being overly concerned with the outline. I added, removed, and rearranged quite a bit from the outline as I wrote. It turned out to be a highly flexible tool and not at all as boring as I thought it would be once I began writing. I do know having the outline gave me more focus than just writing blindly like I tend to do with my short stories. Anytime I felt stuck I had the outline to turn to, even if it meant jumping ahead in it and reordering events.

      I don’t know yet how I will outline the next book but I will be approaching it with a more relaxed frame of mind than I did with the first book. I know now that I don’t need quite so many details fleshed out and defined.

      Liked by 1 person

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