Hello everyone, and welcome to Mapping Out Your Novel. My name is Louis Edwards and I’ll be your guide through this jungle of writing-development and planning. I am an author, graphic designer, webmaster, and a certified ASE mechanic. I am married to a wonderful lady and have two children and seven grandchildren. By the way, we are still honeymooning after thirty-nine years. Okay, enough of that. Let’s get on with our journey.
Writing and planning a novel for some is easy, but for others, knowing where to begin can be overwhelming. When you think of Mapping Out Your Novel, think of it as a road map, a way to get to your destination. Before you take your trip, you think of the things you will need, the stops along the way, and whether you are taking the scenic or direct route. This fifteen-step process will help dissolve the fears of making that happen.
The fifteen-steps needed to map out your novel include:
1. The Premise
2. Plot outline
3. Character Introductions
4. Short Synopsis
5. Extended Synopsis
6. Goal to Decision Cycle
7. Detailed Character Development
8. Scene Blocking
9. First Draft
10. Location Research
11. Subplot Development
12. Character Viewpoints
13. Redraft and Edit
14. Final Polishing and Feedback
15. Getting Published
The first time I heard the word Premise, I had no idea what it meant, so I started searching for a meaning and found it is a way to express the central idea of your story in one or two sentences. Okay, with that said, what does it mean?
Think of the premise as a summary of your story that keeps you focused and a point of reference you can return to. It allows you to stay anchored and helps move your story forward, avoiding any meandering and wasteful scenes. Writing a premise will also help to determine if you have only a kernel (an idea or concept that needs further development) or a complete story idea. You can also think of your premise as an “elevator pitch.”
*Elevator pitch – you get onto an elevator; an agent joins you, and they press the button for the tenth-floor. That is the time you have to pitch your story and make them feel excited about it.
To write a premise, you need a complete story idea that should include these five elements:
· The Character
· The Situation
· The Objective
· The Opponent
· The Disaster
Let’s take a closer look at these elements.
1. The character
Without a character you have no story. Although, throughout your story there will be many characters, we will focus on one, the Master Character (lead character). When thinking about your MC (master character), what one phrase or word best describes them? What is their defining characteristic? Are they a daredevil, adventure, or recluse? Throughout this post and those following we will use one character from the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen.
In the Hunger Games, Katniss is the oldest in her family and must hunt to feed them. She is skilled at using a bow and arrow and must survive the harsh wild in order to accomplish her task. If you were to think of her Defining Characteristic, it would be survivalist by necessity. Now let’s look at her situation.
2. The Situation
When you think of the situation of your character, it is not the status quo or everyday life they live; it is a crisis they face after an inciting incident. The inciting incident is the point where your character finds their lives turned upside down and the adventure begins. This is where the action begins.
Katniss’ inciting incident occurs when her younger sister, Primrose, was selected to take part in a televised fight to the death game. Katniss, knowing it would be certain death for her sister, steps in and volunteers instead. Her volunteering to take her sister’s place is her situation.
3. The Objective
The character’s objective is what they want to accomplish in the story. This is known as an external objective, not they want in their everyday life, but what they need to achieve to complete their mission. Listed below are some examples a protagonist may want to accomplish:
In The Hunger Games, Katniss’ objective is to survive the games and return home. Remember, this is her objective after her inciting incident turns her world upside down.
4. The Opponent
When you think of an opponent, think of conflict. Conflict builds excitement, tension, and interest. Without it your protagonist would be a dead fish floating downstream. Your protagonist needs a worthy opponent to engage the readers. The more powerful or god-like your opponent is, the more your reader will worry about your MC. When the opponent is defeated, the reader will have a greater satisfaction in his demise.
In The Hunger Games Katniss’ opponent is, The Game Makers.
5. The Disaster
It is at this point, the climax of the story, we want the hero (protagonist) to face their greatest challenge. The opponent usually brings the disaster on, in this case, it is The Game Makers. Here, we want the stakes for your hero to be high gripping your readers. This is the crescendo that gives your reader release when it is all over. Without it, your readers will go away with a feeling of dissatisfaction.
Katniss faces disaster when The Game Makers change the rules at the last moment. They forced her to choose between killing her closest ally or being killed by him.
Writing your premise
Armed with the five major elements of your story, you should be able to develop your stories premise or elevator pitch.
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it… I just had to throw a little Mission Impossible, is to write your premise. I would love for you to share yours with us on our blog and allow others to see it as well. This blog will self-destruct in… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Just kidding. Good writing.
Story Premise Example
When Katniss Everdeen, a survivalist, takes part in a televised fight to the death, all she wants to survive and return to her family. When the game makers change the rules at the end, they forced her to choose between killing her closest ally or being killed by him.