I’m so thrilled! I got to go dancing after all this time! It’s so wonderful to have contact with other people!!! And I get to dance tomorrow night again at Telio. Outside and with masks, but dancing is dancing.
In this weeks’ NYU class, my wonderful and talented students asked two important questions: first, do you need to have a complete outline before you start writing? Second, is it okay to write the story out of order?
The answer is yes, and no! Combining the answer to each of these two questions will reveal a useful way to build stories properly and efficiently.
If you will use the 4 Magic Questions of Screenwriting when you begin, you will create a solid, character-driven structure of your story that’s organized into four parts.
Each one of these parts both stands alone and it’s connected to the others. This is a seeming paradox, which cannot be resolved in theory, but only in practice. If you have a compelling Act 1, you can project three possible outcomes (happy, sad, or a surprise) and create a solid Act III.
Act 1 is the inverse of Act 2, part 1, so if Act 1 is the dream, then Act 2, part 1 becomes the nightmare.
Act 2, part 2 brings in another element from your story that transforms our main character so that he or she can win or lose the goal.
Then you can divide these 4 act chunks intuitively into twelve sequences using the Mythic Journey Map®.
.Once your story has twelve sequences (a series of shots and scenes that answer a specific question,) it becomes fun and easy to flesh out your story.
Remember that outlining is not necessarily a linear process, and it takes time for your creative mind to organize a plot. This is where writing out of order serves you. Once your characters begin talking to each other, the missing parts of your story will become obvious. It’s so much fun to write when you know what you’re doing!
Whenever you’re unclear about the next part of your story, write a “practice scene,” in order to find out what is going on with your characters. It’s called a “practice scene,” because you don’t have any obligation to use it, or even reread it. The purpose is solely to allow you to receive information about your story.
If you’re willing to follow your impulses and write any scene that comes into your mind as you’re working, you will reap rich benefits. Always work with a timer because writing out of order can be scary.
Once you have completed the scene, put it away, and look at it when you begin your next session. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you can learn.
To recap: Combining the process of structuring and writing scenes will allow you to write more authentically because you’re allowing the characters to participate, as opposed to pushing them around like chess pieces across the chessboard of your plot. Let them help you tell the story.
Please join me on Thursday when I will be doing a deep dive into writing great dialogue. We’ll be discussing interesting aspects of scene writing such as intimacy, and how location selection can improve any scene. Please email me if you’d like to join.
I’m also excited to be sharing Episode 39 of Jokeonastick.
Here’s to your successful writing,
Professor Marilyn Horowitz