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/