Writing Lesson #1: Outlining Your Romantic Story

How many times have you started to write a novel only to get stuck shortly thereafter? How many great story ideas have you had, with an exciting beginning and a sweet end, just to find out you had nothing in between? How many unfinished novels have you started over the years?

Imagine a builder starting to build a house without a detailed floor plan  - how successful do you think he/she would be? Projects, small or big, need planning. The more complex the project is the more planning and thorough thinking it requires. Writing a novel is a very complex process that requires extensive knowledge of the craft of creating a story. Before you start to work on your writing skills, techniques, and style you should learn the basics of creating a story.  Learning how to develop your story outline is great the place to start learning these basic elements of the story telling craft.

Outlining a story is fun. It is like staging a room – you place a sofa in one corner of the room, look at it, and then decide that you would like it better near the window against the center of the wall. Then you need to pick up a side table - what would you choose – a square table or a round table? Or would you decide that a side table is unnecessary? And when come the time to choose paintings for the wall, would you choose landscape or abstract?  Eventually you would pick up the pieces that will create the atmosphere that you desire to have in your house in a way that serves your lifestyle needs. Working to develop your story outline is a similar process.

When I work on my story outline I love using colorful pens and paper, lots of blank pages of paper, and colorful sticky notes. I really enjoy this part of the story creation process: it is like a game, where I am the creator of my own magical imaginative world. By the end of the outlining process I have a binder full of information and ideas to help me with the next phase of work - writing of the story. When working on the story outline, some people like to work in front of their computer. I find the computer to be too serious and intimidating for me at this creative stage. Visual people might enjoy creating a board on the wall where they can pin photos and related articles or use sticky notes with pieces of information that are easy to move around.


Story outlining is the stage when you need to answer the five WH questions (5WHq):

Who – are your protagonists and other characters that contribute to the story? When writing a romantic story – it is very important to introduce the protagonists (A.K.A – Heroine and Hero) in the first chapter.
When – does the story occur? Think about a year, a season, when your story begins. Is your story contemporary, historic, or futuristic? Readers assume that the story is contemporary, unless it is mentioned otherwise. If you choose a period of time other than the present make sure to clarify it right from the beginning.
Where – does the plot take place? Is it a real place or fictional? Does your story happen in your own homeland or do you take your readers to an exotic place?
What – is the reason that causes the chain of events? What is the inciting event? In a romantic story the question is what event causes your protagonists to get together in a way that will change their life?
Why - to answer this question you will need the rest of the story. In a romantic story you will need to explain – why your protagonists fall in love and cannot live without each other.

Next lesson – Developing Your Romantic Protagonists.

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