The Outlined Outline of the Outline ~ Outside the Margins with Kage Alan

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Have you watched the trailer for Rogue One yet? I don’t know the main character’s name despite being a Sci-Fi geek, but there’s a bit of dialogue where she says something akin to “This is a rebellion. I rebel.” Or something close to that. Rebelling is in my nature. I don’t do it quite so overtly, but I do it, and generally tend to be a smartass about it. My teachers in high school used to tell us “You need to write an outline, and turn it in with your finished paper.” Why? Read the damn paper. It’ll say the same thing, just with more flowery shit around it.

That’s why I won’t utilize an outline. For me, they’re pointless. I therefore rebel.

Obviously, the idea in school was to write this thing called an outline before we wrote our paper. Why? It provided rigidity while we toiled away on our subject. Or, as I came to believe, it sucked all the creative potential out of the paper. Not that there was a huge amount of creativity one could inject about Marco Polo…except that his name continues to be a favorite game with children in swimming pools. Incidentally, teachers don’t find that last bit to be the least bit amusing. Their loss.

Now, I have many author friends who swear by outlines, and outlines are by no means wrong. They aren’t. I’m not being judgmental. Take my friend Patricia Logan for example. Outlines serve her very, very well. And I’m fairly certain that when I’m as old, feeble, and incontinent as she is, I’ll begin to rely on them too.

I just typed that out loud, didn’t I? Yeah, she’s going to kill me for that. Love her! Mean it! And, for the record, Patti has written darn near 10x the number of books I have, so whatever she’s doing, it works, and she’s got the readers to prove it.

The funny thing is I actually do create an outline of sorts when I’m writing a short story or novel. It’s not a traditional outline, though. The version I’m comfortable with is this; when I sit down to write a new story, I have several scenes in my head that will fit somewhere in the overall plot. The majority of these sequences are dialogue, and that’s because I’m a dialogue heavy author. So I’ll write out the conversations as I hear them in my head. If I can’t write a convincing conversation between characters, there is zero sense in me filling in words around them.

These conversations, for me, establish the characters, what they bring to the story, how they’ll interact or play with others, and allow me to figure out where they’ve come from before I take them to the end. I’ll write a scene like this in a story whenever it strikes me, and I’ll place it where I feel it should go. They’ll change and evolve from the beginning to the end, but they serve as a reminder of where I see things progressing.

And that’s about as outline an outline as I get. Say that 5x quickly.

For the record, I understand traditional outlines aren’t set in stone. They evolve, and many authors like having them to rely on. I would rather type a series of scenes and dialogue out and use these as my outline than a traditional one, though. Traditional, for me, squeezes off all the potential places the story can decide to go at the drop of a hat that are far better than where I thought it might. But that’s a mental block I need to get past.


~Kage Alan

About Kage Alan

Non-award winning and utterly non-famous LGBT author Kage Alan lives in a suburb of Detroit, MI with his husband, who answers to “His Majesty,” and their fish and shrimp, who answer to “fish” or “shrimp.” He enjoys adding to his tiny Blu-Ray library, and fibbing about buying Blu-Rays on New Release Tuesday. Kage also lives in fear of His Majesty’s Hong Kong Grandmonster, who God apparently doesn’t want to spend time with.

His novels include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. the Lord of the Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, and Falling Awake. He also has short stories in Butt Pirates in Space, Butt Ninjas From Hell, Butt Babes in Boyland, Butt Riders on the Range, and Butt Villains on Vacation.


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