Imagine you’ve woken from a particularly vivid dream, and you know it would be the perfect next project. And, like many writers, you want to get started with it right away. But what about laying the foundation of your story? My answer is creating a quick and easy story blueprint.
Even if you don’t want to take the time to do a proper outline for your story, you can still create a story blueprint to guide you along the writing process. Here’s the 4 step process to lay the foundation of your next story and start writing:
Brainstorming your story’s foundation
The dream or idea is the spark that ignites your creativity, and this process lets me fan that fire into a story blueprint that helps me easily write the first draft.
The brainstorming phase typically starts with a brain dump of the dream or idea that sparked this process and continues into general brainstorming and connecting the dots. I push the process along by asking “what if” questions to craft the overall plot arc and resolution.
During this initial brainstorming phase, just focus on the plot, creating compelling character profiles, generalized world building, and obstacles that could set your characters back a few paces. Or, so their story isn’t simply a straight line, but more of an upward-trending wavy line with both rising and falling moments.
Don’t get caught up in the details of the story… That’s what the next few steps are for! The brainstorm is about harnessing your creative power and initial enthusiasm to generate ideas you can later build upon and expand, and eventually use to write your story.
Researching your story’s details
You may come to realize that you already understand the broad aspects of your story…and the world they’re set in. But there are always things writers need to research to successfully craft immersive stories.
Even the most “normal” genres have their barriers. Contemporary, which is often set in a familiar setting, may incorporate an occupation, cuisine, culture, or location you—the writer—are unfamiliar with. And that’s a fairly “normal” genre.
Diving deeper into science fiction or fantasy, and that research list might grow into pages and pages of little things you might need to know to write worlds that truly engage readers.
Learning how to research your story is important, but actually implementing that research into your story is more important. Why do all the work if you aren’t going to use what you’ve learned?
The thing about research for your book is that, while you probably will have a pretty hefty list of things you aren’t familiar with that may crop up throughout your protagonist’s journey, you don’t need to complete every last bit of research before you start writing.
In fact, you probably shouldn’t do all the research. There will be some things that are apart of your protagonist’s everyday life you will need to have a basic understanding of, but don’t let that massive list deter you from writing your book.
Writers, at the end of the day, I write because I love to write. I don’t write because I love the research—though, sometimes it is a fun learning experience. Know what you know and make a list of what you might need to know. When it comes up, address it then.
Crafting the wireframe that binds your story together
The wireframe is the barebones outline of your story. It’s the “this-then-that” outline that differs from the story blueprint because it lacks detail. It’s more like a chapter overview that lacks the details in each scene.
To get started developing the wireframe, you should compile the ideas you create during the brainstorming phase and organize your ideas onto a big storyboard where you think they will best suit your story. Here are a few suggestions to easily create a storyboard:
- Use Scrivener—an amazing writing app—to create your corkboard and move scenes around.
- Use index cards to jot down your ideas and move them around on the floor. You can always pin them to a larger board later.
- Or use online applications like Trello or Notion.so to digitally move each card.
Once you’ve moved around your little book pieces into a tangible story outline, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have an enticing, tension-driven opening hook?
- Is the first plot point revealed about 25% of the way through your novel and does it propel your protagonist into the Second Act?
- Is there a reaction between the end of the First Act and the Start of the Second Act?
- Does the protagonist struggle with the plot—whether internally or externally—and how does this impact them?
- Is there a defined Mid-Point?
- What pivotal moment pushes the protagonist into the Third (and final) Act of the story?
- How does the story resolve itself? What’s the big reveal (if there is one)?
- Have you detailed how the protagonist defeats their antagonist?
The questions above will help you pinpoint the key plot points of your story. Once you have these key parts built, you can easily start writing your novel. Or—if you’re really a plotter—you can move on to the next step and build your story blueprint.
Creating your story blueprint
While the first three steps are great—even for pantsers—the story blueprint phase is for plotters who love crafting detailed outlines to guide them through an amazing first draft. The story blueprint takes the wireframe you created in the first three steps and combines the wireframe and research to deepen the outline.
The goal is to create a thorough guide that takes you through each chapter and scene of your story. The story blueprint is about ironing out the details in your story to push you through writer’s block and other writer problems that stagnate the writing process.
The reason diving through the wireframe and into the story blueprint is so important because you can consider overarching things like plot and sub-plots, plot holes, character arcs, and world building. Plus, you can dive deeper into specific character development, foreshadowing, and embedding tension, tone, and symbolism throughout your story—something you may have only thought about later in the writing and editing processes.
Because the spark might fizzle out quickly, my goal is to complete this during the same day the “spark” occurs. But regardless of how long the process takes you, the story blueprint method is a great way to build an effective and hyper-detailed outline for your story.