Where to Find Your Chapter Outlines

You have three things for your story: a general idea, characters, and that nagging awareness that NaNo is ready for you, regardless of your being ready for it. So, maybe you’re more ready than I am; maybe you’ve actually written an outline that you love… or maybe it’s just an outline. Maybe, like someone I know, (not me though, I’m too responsible for that) you don’t have an outline at all. What do you do? How do you throw together an outline you love with only days to go? (Would it be predictable of me to tell you that you need to ask questions?) Well, you do anyway. But, same as in my last two posts, you need to ask the right questions.

You need the specific value changes of your chapters, your individual chapters, so that you can finalize your outline. Your questions at this point should be specifically related to the individual actions which take place in your chapters. So… questions anyone?

 What would scare your hero?

Really, these are some of the best scenes, especially for openers and heart-pounding thrillers. Ask yourself, what would scare my hero? What would cause him to slide down a wall with clenched fists shaking in terror? A monster? A villainous gunman? A nuke? An overdue mortgage payment?

Remember, what scares your hero is going to have to threaten what he holds most dear: his life, wife, or vintage Captain America pocket knife. Whatever it is, threaten it, and make him unable to protect it. That should be a chapter, or at least an act in your novel.

 What would anger your hero?

Yes, I’m going to jump ahead to the part of your novel where your hero has to commit to whatever quest is laid before him. Is something going to anger him and keep him from walking away? Your villain should do something that enrages your hero; make it a scene.

What would expose your hero?

I’m not talking about the point where your hero’s darkened past is revealed on national news, though that is a legitimate idea. What I’m really getting after is what will make your hero vulnerable? What will bring out who he is? This is related to scaring him, but at this point the villain is making a move into your hero’s space. Expose your hero, throw him out into the wild world. Make a scene of it.

What would make your hero’s day?

Sure, this could be a great resolution for your story, but that’s not where I was going. What would be the best thing that could happen to your hero in that scene? Put it within his fingertips and then have your villain yank it away, along with whatever your hero still has to hold onto. That will be a fantastic black moment to bring your hero to his knees before the climax.

Which of your villain’s greatest powers could be used against him?

Finally, you need a climax. At this point in your novel your hero has suffered so much, and is so powerless, that the only power he could leverage against the villain is the villain’s own. Of course, he can’t do this in any way which compromises his own values, but the only way your audience will buy your ending is if Gollum throws himself into Mount Doom. Frodo must be powerless, struggling to take one last stand, before your villain crumbles due to his own negative ideal.


There you have it, if you’ve followed me along then you should have five scenes which may or may not have anything to do with each-other. Connect the dots between these five scenes and you should have yourselves a novel, and a good one at that. Don’t believe me? Give it a try. And if you need help “connecting the dots”, Read the article “Ninjas in Hindsight” which can be found in the (unrecent) but most recent publication of Kingdom Pen Magazine. (Vol 3 Issue 3) You can download it here: http://kingdompen.org/

Give it a try, and let me know how it goes!

(Any more questions before NaNo begins?)


Photo: hms-sunset, Doc Searls, CC BY 2.0

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Raised on C.S. Lewis and matured (to whatever extent) on Tolkien, Brandon Miller is a huge fan of Christian speculative fiction. His favorite stories artfully bend the physical reality to reveal spiritual realities which apply to all realms, kingdoms, districts and solar systems (including our own.)
When not writing fiction Brandon spends his time tending his blog The Woodland Quill, sportsing, or just struggling through that last-year-of-high-school/first-year-of-college which is really neither but is definitely both.

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