Outlining a Series With the Snowflake Method: Step 2- In Practice

Step 1: One Sentence Storyline
Step 1-1/2: What Type of Series?
Step 2: One Paragraph Storyline- Exposition

 

Now, we get to move on to the practical use of the One Paragraph Storyline, and discuss the slight modifications I’ve made to it to make it work for the series outline style I’ve got planned.

The first couple of times I’ve used the snowflake outline to outline a series I used the normal method with 3 disasters and an ending, and the way I worked it is that each “disaster” would be the One Sentence Storyline for the next step down. That’s a good way to outline for four books. The entire system at this point is built to be divisible by four. So, the next step up would be sixteen books. So, this can create a really really long series. With The Raven Stone series I broke it down this way, but instead of outlining a full 16 book series, I looked at it like I was outlining a 4 book series that was going to be serialized into 16 parts. So, that second stage of One Sentence Storylines became the story arcs for the route the series was taking. Each arc was built to have a separate villain, though they were interconnected by the overarching storyline developed in the first One Paragraph Storyline.

That’s not how I’m going to be doing for this outline. For one reason, I don’t want a series that’s going to be 16 books long. I’m going to aim for 7 books, just like our published example. To get that number of books I’m going to have to modify the One Paragraph Outline. The easiest way I see to do this is to expand the number of “disasters” that take place over the course of the series. So, instead of 3 disasters and an ending, it will be 6 disasters and an ending. And, I’m not even going to pretend to find a way to make that get along with the 3-act structure and what not. This One Paragraph Storyline serves exactly one purpose, a broad overview of the series. Each of the disasters and the ending will basically be bunch of One Sentence Storylines. Still, the best way to make the over arching plot of the series consistent is to treat the whole of the series like it’s going to be one novel. An extremely long novel, but a novel none the less.

So, for the breakdown let’s look at our published example:

(Be aware, there are spoilers below.)

 

Harry Potter series:
One Sentence Storyline: A boy is the chosen one in a prophecy that pits him against the most evil wizard.

For the disasters in Harry Potter we could look at the actual ending of the books, though that will always have Harry return to the Dursley’s, and while that’s a terrible thing, using it as the disaster for each book wouldn’t be descriptive of the book at all. No, the disasters are going to be the focal points of the novel. The climactic moments in the series. Like the first books disaster would be the moment when Quirrell reveals that he’s been Voldemort’s host all along and tries to kill Harry. Basically, the disaster here is that Voldemort is alive and there is a possibility that one day he will be able to reclaim his former glory and cast another darkness across the land.

 

First Disaster:
Harry finds out Voldemort is alive, he’s a weak creature that must depend on others to live, but he’s still alive and there’s a chance he’ll come back just as powerful as before.

Second Disaster:
Harry becomes trapped in the chamber of secrets and finds himself facing off with Tom Riddle twenty years before he becomes Lord Voldemort.

Third Disaster:
After almost proving his innocence, Harry must say goodbye to his godfather before he goes into hiding, running from a crime he didn’t commit.

Fourth Disaster:
The triwizard tournament was a sham, merely a way for Voldemort to get ahold of Harry, and use some of his darkest powers to completely resurrect himself, regaining his full power.

Fifth Disaster:
Harry discovers that he’s the subject of a prophecy, one that foretells his coming battle and death at the hands of Lord Voldemort.

Sixth Disaster:
Betrayal, Harry watches in horror as Severus Snape murders Albus Dumbledoor.

End:
Harry learns that he is Voldemort’s final horcrux, and if there’s to be any chance of defeating him Harry must die by Voldemort’s hand.

(Side note… I should probably put a spoiler warning earlier in the post.)

(Another side note: it is a lot easier to make these out for books that have been written already. We’ve not even looked at our example series yet.)

So, the One Paragraph Storyline of the Harry Potter series:

A boy is the chosen one in a prophecy that pits him against the most evil wizard of all. Harry finds out Voldemort is alive, he’s a weak creature that must depend on others to live, but he’s still alive and there’s a chance he’ll come back just as powerful as before. Harry becomes trapped in the chamber of secrets and finds himself facing off with Tom Riddle twenty years before he becomes Lord Voldemort. After almost proving his innocence, Harry must say goodbye to his godfather before he goes into hiding, running from a crime he didn’t commit. The Triwizard Tournament was a sham, merely a way for Voldemort to get ahold of Harry, and use some of his darkest powers to resurrect himself, regaining his full power. Harry discovers he’s the subject of a prophecy, one that foretells his coming battle and death at the hands of Lord Voldemort. Betrayal, Harry watches in horror as Severus Snape murders Albus Dumbledoor. Harry learns that he is Voldemort’s final horcrux, and if there’s to be any chance of defeating him Harry must die by Voldemort’s hand.

Welp, there’s the One Paragraph Storyline for the Harry Potter series. Now it’s time to work on our original fiction idea, but I think I’m going to put that off until the next post. Later taters.

Ryan S. Kinsgrove

RSK

Follow along with my peculiar brand of insanity:https://upscri.be/5a20f7/

Outlining a Series With the Snowflake Method: Step 2- Exposition

Step 1: One Sentence Storyline
Step 1-1/2: What Type of Series?

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.)

First Disaster:

Harry, Ron, and Hermione face off with a mountain troll that got into the school, and through the experience become the best of friends.

Second Disaster:

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.

Third Disaster:

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.

End:

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

RSK

Follow along with my peculiar brand of insanity:https://upscri.be/5a20f7/

Outlining a Series With the Snowflake Method: Step 1-1/2

Step 1: One Sentence Storyline

I sat down to work on step 2 earlier today, and while I was working on it I realized something rather important. When you’re working on outlining a series you can’t immediately jump into step two once you finish step one; there needs to be a half step between the two. What is this half step composed of? Logistics. This is the point where we decide how many books our series is going to have. (Side note: this half step can also be completed before step one.)

The first major choice is what type of series you want to have.

But, Ryan, isn’t there only one type of series?

The short answer is no. There are a plethora of series types to choose from. As I see it there are five basic types of series. They are single narrative series; multiple story arc series, interconnected trilogies, minorly interconnected single entry series, and single entry series.

A single narrative series is a series of stories that follows a single narrative thread. These series often have books that are somewhat standalone, but become more and more interconnected as the later books in the series build on the former books. A good example of a single narrative series is the Harry Potter series. Probably the first three or four books in Harry Potter can be read as standalone books (the first book I read in the series was The Prisoner of Azkaban, and I didn’t have a problem catching onto what was going on, had I started at book five or six I would have been completely lost). The same could be said for Stephen King’s Dark Tower cycle, or Andy Peloquin’s Hero of Darkness series. The first couple of books are easy to slip into, but past that you really need to know what happened in the books before to understand the primary line of the story’s narrative. (I also believe this is nowhere more apparent than Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time series, though I’ve not read through the whole series yet so I can’t be one hundred percent.) I would also consider George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire a single narrative series, but not one that can be easily picked up past the first novel. (Of course the first novel can’t be picked up easily either, at least for me it couldn’t.) As an example from my own stories, I’ll be using the story I’m outlining for this project, The Dragon God’s Canticles will be a singular narrative series, as well as a series I’ve been poking at for a while: The Elementalist’s Apprentice.

A multiple story arc series is a series of books where a certain number of books tell an almost self contained story arcs. They’re interconnected, and tell just enough of an overarching story not to be included in one of the other categories. I’m also defining a self contained story arc as a story arc that spans across a number of books, but not over the totality of the series. Most often, examples of this type of series would be a series of novels that are serialized. Each complete book of the serial might be part of a single entry series (think of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his series of novels focused on the character of Sherlock Holmes), but I would still consider them falling under this category because they share elements with the prior stories and do build on one another to a small extent. A more modern example of this sort of series would be Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mystery series. I find these books are broken into story arcs mainly due to the relationships the primary character has throughout X number of books. Like Sookie’s relationship with the vampire Bill Compton is the focus of the first three (maybe four, can’t remember) books, and after that her relationship with Eric Northman picks up, and so on and so fourth. The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas is a similar example with the first two books focused on the relationship arc between the main character, Celaena Sardothian, and one of the male love interests, Chaol Westfall, while books three through five focus on the relationship between Celaena and Rowan, a fey character introduced in the third book. (If you haven’t noticed, most of these arc related series are closely related to the romance genre.) An excellent example of this, in a fantasy context, is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m sure you’re all confused at this point, but yes, this is a series of novels that is broken into two separate story arcs. What are the story arcs? (If you’ve read the books you know what I’m talking about.) The story arcs are Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mordor and Mount Doom, and the story of Gimli, Legolas, Aragorn, et al., as they battle against the forces of Sarumon and Sauron. The books themselves are broken down into two book sections, with one book dealing with Sam and Frodo, and the other book dealing with the rest of the fellowship of the ring. One of the series I’ve been working on is going to fit this format, as it will basically be four novels serialized across several smaller volumes. The series is going to be titled The Raven Stone series (sign up for my mailing list[link to upscribe form] if you want to keep track of all my little bits of insanity) and will focus on a small group of misfits as they travel across an alternate history version of our earth.

The third category is interconnected trilogies. These are series that are based primarily on the trilogy structure. That means the characters and settings are basically the same between each trilogy, but the stories are contained wholly in that trilogy with only tiny elements of it following along into the other stories. This is the way ninety percent of the Star Wars Legends stories are structured. It’s a perfect example, with only minor elements (a character here, a setting there, that sort of thing) following from one trilogy into the next. Another factor that relates to this is that all of these stories are considered canon (in the case of Star Wars Legends they were considered canon at the time they were written) and therefore are an important part when other stories are being written about this world. Another example of interconnected trilogies are shared world series (these pretty much function the same way Star Wars Legends did). (A short definition of a “shared world series” is a fantasy or science fiction setting that multiple authors contribute too.)

The next type of series is the minorly interconnected single entry series. This is a sort of series where some elements of the story (characters, locations, and such) are held over from story to story, but the main characters and the primary story are almost entirely separate from the other entries in the series. A narrative arc might be constructed, but if it is this arc will come from the interaction of secondary and tertiary characters. It won’t be a quick to resolve story arc, and there might be multiple entries in the series where the story arc isn’t mentioned at all. The series will build on itself, after a fashion, by taking the main characters from the earlier entries and turning them into secondary and tertiary characters in the later additions to the series. And the aforementioned narrative arc will almost always culminate in an entry where some of the primary secondary or tertiary characters are finally getting their time as the main characters of the story. This is the way I’ve seen a couple of paranormal romance series structured, and the first example that jumps to mind is Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series. This series could almost cross classify as a multiple story arc series, as the way Mrs. Kenyon has structured her series is that the secondary and tertiary characters will slowly build a story arc over five to ten books, before the “main” character among the secondary and tertiary characters will get their story told, thus ending that story arc. This book will also serve as the starting point for the next slow to build story arc. (I think this type of series is almost completely unique to the romance genre as one of the most important tropes in the romance genre is the Happily Ever After moment, and in a traditional series it is hard to get that Happily Ever After moment, and the bastard cousin of the Happily Ever After moment, the Happy For Now moment, only works so many times before the fans become very disgruntled with the author of the work and start to lose interest in the series.)

Now, the final series type is the single entry series. This type of series is almost singularly unique in the fact that the books DO NOT form a cohesive story. They don’t build on themselves, and the main character (who is typically the same character from entry to entry) always feels like the reset button on their character development got hit when the new story starts. The mystery and thriller genres are the most frequent perpetrators of this series type. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes falls under this category (being cross classified from the entry above), as does Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot character and the mysteries he solves. James Bond, by Ian Fleming, is another culprit. Along with Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novels, Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, and Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder and Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery series all fall under this classification. If I tried I’m sure I could find about a hundred more examples (honestly it probably numbers in the thousands). These books may occasionally touch on story elements from other entries in the series, but it is far from typical for that to happen.

And, where does that leave us at the end of this half step. I’m pretty sure I answered that question when discussing the first type of series. I’ll be aiming for writing a single narrative series when it comes to The Dragon God’s Canticles. This is also the type of series outline I’ll be using for The Elementalist’s Apprentice series when I finally find my way around to working on the rest of the first draft of the first book, all before I completely invalidate what I wrote by writing out the outline after I wrote the first book. And, I’ve got two other examples I can point at too, while we’re discussing the other ways to work the Snowflake Method for this outline. That would be The Adventures of Gallan Lancaster series, which is going to be outlined with the interconnected trilogy model, and The Raven Stone series, which will be using the multiple story arc model. As of right now, I don’t have anything planned for the other two series types. Give me some time though, and I’m sure I can come up with something.

Anywho, see you tomorrow with the official Step Two post.

Ryan S. Kinsgrove

Follow along with my peculiar brand of insanity: https://upscri.be/5a20f7/

RSK

Check out my Medium Premium Post! Multiplicity: Where Do The Others Come From

The Dragon God’s Canticles Project Journal: Snowflake Outline- One Sentence Storyline Brainstorm

Okay, as an example in my series on outlining a series using the Snowflake Method, I want to build the outline for a new series during this process. This means brainstorming.

I do have a series I’ve been meaning to get around to outlining. I had a partial outline for the first book, but it went missing shortly after I got through step three, and that was probably about five or six years ago. I’ve even come up with a title for this series. It’s a working title, and will probably change a time or two before I’m ready to publish the story. The Dragon God’s Canticles is the title I’ve got right now, and each book is going to have a subtitle labeling which canticle the book is. Such as the first book being labeled: The Dragon God’s Canticles: XXX XXX (I don’t have a working title yet): The First Canticle.

A canticle is a song, or hymn, with a divine context typically used in a church service. I might try to include a poem/sonnet/something at the beginning of each book that would represent some of the events that happen in the story and as a direct reference to the title being involved with the word canticle. Just a thematic thing to stick with. This, however, is not helping me come up with a one sentence storyline for the series, or even giving me any idea as to what the series will be about.

I’ve had the idea for a while, and now I can dust a little bit of it off to try and get an idea about what’s going on. One of the main characters is a YA elf named Azariel Athendash, he is on a personal quest to find some connection between his family and the rulers of the ancient Taratulian Empire. But this quest really doesn’t have too much to do with the primary story. The primary story focuses on the ruling family of the Kingdom of Bertran. The ruling family is the Lafeya house, lead by King Richard Lafeya. His “daughter” (who really turns out to be his niece)… I had a name for her, that was a perfect name for her, but I can’t friggin remember it >.< Arrgh, I don’t even have it written down anywhere else, except for on the original outline >.< That might not be true, I think I might have made a list of the characters of interest in the Kingdom of Bertran before. Not entirely sure about that. Will have to check when I get home (presently at work with no access to my creative writing folder, I didn’t expect to be doing this tonight or I would have been prepared). It also follows Adolphus Meridan IV and Thok as they fight to save the kingdom.

Book One is also the book I’m going to be dedicating to Bob, as well as having the character named Terbor Eel Eversh Jr., which is basically Bob’s name backwards. I’m pretty sure its junior on his name and not a number. I might be able to play it off as II, but if junior is actually his name then that’s what I should go with. Of course this still isn’t helping get me any closer towards getting a one sentence storyline going for the totality of the series.

The central (I think the princess’s name might have been Evelyn…yes, completely random thought) thrust of the plot is going to be Azog of Balfor’s attack on the kingdom of Bertran as he is trying to get revenge for a reason I’m not going to discuss in a public forum. It’ll ruin the surprise, and I don’t want to give out any spoilers. Azog also happens to be a half fiend/half dragon with a humanoid base, when it comes to D&D rules. He’s a really nasty piece of work all told.

So, right now we’ve got an unlikely team of heroes gathered together to battle against the forces of evil. Wow that’s kind of cliche. Meh, its a common trope. (All we need now is a chosen one [probably shouldn’t say that because there probably will be one] although the chosen one is a common trope for YA. If I’m going for YA I should probably also write the bulk of it from the princess/Evelyn’s point of view.) All of the comments in the parenthesis will be addressed later on, when I’ve got a better idea of what’s going on in the series. (The princess’s name is EVELYN!!! HAHAHAHA, I found it. Screw you negative thoughts.) Anyway, I need a one sentence storyline for the totality of The Dragon God’s Canticles. One sentence storyline: An unlikely team of heroes are gathered together to prevent the darkness of the demonic dragon god from spreading across the land. (22 words)

Follow along with my peculiar brand of insanity: https://upscri.be/5a20f7/

RSK