Now, we can finally move on to step 2.
Well, we can sort of move on to step 2. I still never gave my final decision about how many books the series is going to be. I think I’ll take the simplest method with it though. The published series example I’m using for this story is a 7 book series, so I’ll aim for 7 books for my series as well. The odd number is also a new one for me, as I’ve pretty rigidly stuck to the snowflake method in the path. I’ve got a little bit of modification I’m going to do to the method, however, to make outlining a seven book series just a wee bit easier.
Now, step 2 is called the One Paragraph Storyline. When I sit down and do this step myself, I’ll typically do the step at the same time I do the first step. Why? Because, the brainstorming session for my one sentence storyline spills over into the second step right at the same time. A little of that spilled over in my previous project journal, but not nearly as much as I normally would have had. At the time I literally was just trying to get the basics together for my one sentence storyline.
(At this point I’m mainly going to be explaining the way the One Paragraph Storyline works in the normal snowflake method, and we’ll go from there into the actual meat and potatoes of the work in the next post.)
The One Paragraph Storyline is basically the precursor for the 3-act structure. It is built by creating 3 disasters for your characters to experience over the course of the story. In the 3-act structure each disaster is going to correspond to a major turning point in the story.
The first disaster will be the end of Act 1, crossing the threshold in the Hero’s Journey basically. At that point your characters are committed. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, our published example, there are two points I feel that could be the threshold and end to Act 1. Many people would point to the obvious trip to platform 9-3/4’s as this is when Harry is literally crossing the barrier into the magical world. Personally though, I believe the first disaster takes place after they’re already at school. I think the first disaster in the book is the encounter with the troll. Why? This is the point at which Harry, Ron, and Hermione cross the threshold into the true state of their friendship. They become the Power Trio (something that probably needs to be discussed at a later date in a post all its own, but if you want a bit of early reading on the subject check out TVTropes.org), and from that point forward the story really is moving them towards their ultimate destiny.
The second disaster is the midpoint of Act 2, I believe that’s the Belly of the Whale in the Hero’s Journey. In some interpretations, specifically going with the Hero’s Journey as an example, this is the darkest hour for the character. I think. Totally not an expert on the Hero’s Journey, so I could be talking out of my ass right now. Going back to Harry Potter I feel that this “disaster” would be the Mirror of Erised. It’s the first time Harry sees his parents, and has his first deep meaningful interaction with Dumbledoor.
The third disaster is the end of Act 2, and would be the climax of the Hero’s Journey (I think). With our example, I believe that the third disaster would be the quidditch match where Harry is thrown around on the broom. This clues the group into knowing something is up with Snape, and points them in the direction they need to go to find out about Professor Quirrell, where and how to get around the three headed dog, and speeds them on towards the ultimate climax of the story.
After this disaster you would come up with a suitable end for the story to cap off Act 3, the Return With The Elixir in the Hero’s Journey I believe. This segment in Harry’s first adventure would be the moment he defeats Voldemort, and gets the Sorcerer’s Stone from the mirror. I’ll leave out the unpleasant return to the Dursley’s. We’ll be talking about that more in the next post.
In constructing the actual One Paragraph Storyline the One Sentence Storyline will be the first sentence. The next three sentences will correspond to each of the disasters, and the final sentence will be the ending of the story. Now, let’s take a look at the story we’ve got laid out before us.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone One Paragraph Storyline:
(I also realized I did the One Sentence Storyline for the Harry Potter series as a whole, not just for the first book >.<)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone One Sentence Storyline:
A young boy learns he’s a wizard and travels to a school of magic where he begins to learn the bigger part he’ll play in the world. (It’s terrible I know.)
Harry, Ron, and Hermione face off with a mountain troll that got into the school, and through the experience become the best of friends.
Harry discovers the Mirror of Erised, he sees his parents for the first time, and learns that the mirror would consume him if he were to continue looking into its depths; Dumbledoor has it moved for reasons unknown.
At the deciding game of the schools quidditch championship Snape appears to be attacking Harry, alerting the three friends to the ultimate badness that’s going on in the school.
Harry is able to claim the Sorcerer’s Stone from the Mirror of Erised and defeat Voldemort once again, just in time for the end of year tests.
So, putting it all together.
One Paragraph Storyline:
A young boy learns he’s a wizard and travels to a school of magic where he begins to learn the bigger part he’ll play in the world. Harry, Ron, and Hermione face off with a mountain troll that got into the school, and through the experience become the best of friends. Harry discovers the Mirror of Erised, he sees his parents for the first time, and learns that the mirror would consume him if he were to continue looking into its depths; Dumbledoor has it moved for reasons unknown. At the deciding game of the schools quidditch championship Snape appears to be attacking Harry, alerting the three friends to the ultimate badness that’s going on in the school. Harry is able to claim the Sorcerer’s Stone from the Mirror of Erised and defeat Voldemort once again, just in time for the end of year tests.
And, that’s pretty much the basics of Step 2. In the next post we’ll look at how Step 2 will be modified to work as a One Paragraph Storyline for the entirety of the series.
Ryan S. Kinsgrove