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.

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


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/


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

Super Sonnet Sunday/Poem a Day: In the Dark

In the dark,
The elf has no heart,
He isn’t here for a lark,
He is going to tear you apart.


His swords drip,
Saturated by blood,
He will rip,
And, rush through like a flood.


Fear is crawling up your back,
Waiting for his attack,
All you see is naught but black,
There is no time to retract.


I see shifting shadows in the dark,
The Raven Stone will sink the ark.


***Author’s Note***

I thought I would write a poem to accompany my short story. I certainly like the way it turned out.

Found image on Pintrest, but I’m not sure who to credit it too.

And, speaking of my short story, if you missed In the Dark here’s a conveniently placed link.

Short Story Saturday: In the Dark

So, it’s Saturday. My poem has already posted, but I figured why not post twice today. It is Saturday after all, and I haven’t posted a short story in a little while. And, a little celebration is in order. Not because of the inauguration, but because in the last two weeks I’ve written and submitted a short story for potential publication, and I’ve got probably a hundred pages closer to getting my first novel published. To celebrate all this then, here is my first ever professionally published short story. Published in the Mountain Mysts anthology, which got an Honorary Mention at the London Book Festival. Now, I’m not implying my story played a big role in that… but my ego likes to think so. XD


In the Dark


“Hello,” the word died in the dark even as it left Nightshade’s lips. A saber was clenched tight in each hand. In his native world he’d been a master at fighting with two blades. In this world, however, the sabers felt clumsy with poor balance between the hilt and the blade. One of them had an ornate hand and cross guard, it had gemstones and gold and silver filigree covering nearly every inch of it; this was the one with the worst balance. The other was plain Jane and practical with an iron cross guard and a band of iron folded down over the sword’s grip.

“What’chu make of ‘im, Jed?” a voice came from the dark. Three forms slipped into the very edge of the light spilling from Nightshade’s campfire. Nightshade shifted his weight just a tick, putting it over his back leg. He was ready to spring when the time came.

“His skin’s as black as midnight,” another voice called, the one on the far left. “You recon he’s a slave escaped from his poor master? That one blade of his is pretty enough to hang on ol’ Dale Harliss’s wall. Might be he actually took it from that wall.”

“You’re both daft,” Jed said, the big one in the middle. He was holding a long iron stick with a sort of wood stock at the back. It was unlike anything Nightshade had ever seen, and the way Jed kept it angled towards the ground, Nightshade suspected it was dangerous.

“We got ourselves somethin’ real nice and special here,” Jed said. “We got ourselves an elf.”

“Quit playin’ Jed,” the first voice said again. “He’s just a jiggaboo, he ain’t no fairy tale. Fairy tales ain’t real.”

“Then what was that bright flash a light we saw?” Jed said. “It was green, Quince. I ain’t never seen a green flash before.”

“It coulda been lightning,” Quince said. “Ain’t that right Roddy?”

“Ain’t never seen no flash of lightning like that,” Roddy said.

It took a minute for Nightshade to catch up to what they were saying. They were speaking common, and he thanked sol for that, but it was a strange sort of common, a dialect closer to the way dwarves talk.

He shoved the thoughts to the back. He might be able to place himself by the way they were talking, but the talk of the green flash intrigued him. He had been born into this world in a great green wave of arcane energy which might appear as a flash of light to a layman.

Nightshade had chosen to come to this world that much was true. Supposedly he had a mission to complete for the Academy Arcane. They were waiting for him to signal his mission was a success so they could bring him back over. Nightshade had no intention of returning. He came here to escape persecution, the kind that killed his kind on sight should they walk upon the surface.

Now it seemed he was a curiosity to these men. A fact which did not bode well for them.

“It was not lightning,” Nightshade said in perfect common.

“It speaks English,” Jed said, his eyes twinkling with curiosity.

“I am a he, not an it,” Nightshade said. “I have a name, and I am a member of a royal family. You will address me as His Highness Prince Adnon of the House of Nightshade.”

A little white lie, maybe, but it was one these fools could never check up on.

“His Highness Prince Adnon,” Quince said and spit. “Well, princey boy, you be in the wrong part of the world for any respect of royalty.”

“You’re in Virginia now,” Roddy said. “A state standing proud in the Confederate States of America, and we don’t cow toe to no king.”

“Come on, Jed,” Quince said. “If he’s an elf, and a jiggaboo elf at that, let’s take ‘im over Richmond way, and see what kinda change we can get for him.”

“I dunno,” Jed said. His eyes had never wavered from Nightshade. He looked entranced, but Nightshade knew he had no powers which could capture a human mind. At least he hadn’t such power back in his native realm.

“Come on, Jed,” Quince said again. “All he’s got is a pair of pig stickers. He can’t do us no harm.”

Jed still didn’t look sure of his decision, but his hands tightened on the iron stick and he brought it up to point at Nightshade.

Nightshade noticed the hole in the middle of the stick, making it some sort of barrel. He tightened his grip on the blades and readied himself for action.

“You’ll wanna put those pig stickers down,” Roddy said as he pulled a similar iron stick from a holster on his hip. This one was no bigger than a wizard’s magic wand.

“We’d hate to have ta shoot ya,” Quince said. He also drew and iron stick. “Ya wouldn’t be worth near as much damaged… or dead.”

“We oughta kill him,” Jed said. “He might be worth something as a slave, but he’d be worth more to one of those travelin’ freak shows. Even if he’s dead.”

Slave and freak show and dad, none of those were near at all what he expected from this world. There was supposed to be freedom here, no persecution based on his skin color. What he’d learned from the wizards was wrong. It was so wrong. He would go back and make them pay for their lies.

These three would need to be dealt with first, however.

He thought about thanking them for a moment, before he killed them. Thank them for showing him the truth of this world and making his stay blessedly short. He tightened his grips, and he charged, letting forth a great battle cry.

Jed, Quince, and Roddy raised their iron sticks as one and fire flew from the ends. The three projectiles struck Nightshade right in the middle. Each one blew out his back; one nipping his spinal cord, with the others shredding his lungs and piercing his heart.

Nightshade stood for a moment. He dropped his swords and brought one hand up to his chest. He looked at the blood there, astonished. How could they beat him? He was a weapon master where he came from… They were bumpkins… How could they beat him?

The dark elf tipped backwards, his legs giving way, and he came down on his back hard.

With eyes quickly glazing over he watched as Jed, Quince, and Roddy stalked around to marvel over their kill.

“It was supposed to be better here,” Nightshade said, his lips covered in blood.

“Bub,” Jed said, leaning down beside the elf. “Don’t you know we’re at war? This world is as full of shit as the next.”

Nightshade let out one last shuddering breath and fell still. The darkness that had first greeted him on arrival into this world wrapped its arms around him and he knew no more.



The End

This also serves as the starting point for one of my story series. Well, it’s the inspiration behind it anyway. I’ve got a first draft of The Raven Stone: In the Dark floating around, and its an expansion of this story going into how Adnon was brought into our world and how he comes to meet his grisly end at the hands of Jed, Quince, and Roddy. Take comfort in the fact that this death is not truly the end of Adnon’s story. No, it’s only the beginning. His story will continue in The Raven Stone Quadrilogy.


Image credit goes to Helmuttt from DeviantArt.