How to Brainstorm: Outlining 101
Hi Y’all, this video goes out to all my fellow writers out there!
“Well, I’m not a writer, I’ll just exit this video.”
Wait, stay with me.
Although I’ll be talking mainly about how to outline a book or story in this outlining 101 series, if you’re a student who needs to write essays or even a project manager at work, this first outlining crash course on brainstorming will definitely help you too.
The point of an outline is to lay out all your ideas in an organized way that you can refer to throughout your writing project.
With writing a book, outlining is super important because you’ll be able to more clearly see the paths you’ll take to establish your plot line and have a believable, but still epic climax.
Before we can start an outline, we need to brainstorm, but before we get started, the very first step is to have an idea. What do you wanna write about? Have a topic in mind, but no need to go into specifics. We’ll get to that later.
For the purpose of this video, I’m going to make up an idea with you, and it will probably get weird, but it’ll make my points. How about a vampire and human romance story? Because that hasn’t been done before!
After the idea, then we go into brainstorming. Other ways you’ll hear this is a mind or brain dump, but you can pretty much call it whatever you want. Parking lot… lobby… elevator. The name doesn’t matter, just the purpose of it. But I call it brainstorming so let’s get over to the computer to start our vampire romance.
We’re going to start by dumping all of our ideas out, the good, the bad, and the ridiculous. You may incorporate all of these, you may not. I like starting off with the 4 W’s. Who, when, where, and what.
Who are our who’s? This is your main character list.
- Vampire boy, named Victor Ironheart
- Human girl, Olivia Stroker
- Vampire’s best friend is a ghost, her name is Penelope Affron.
- Human girl’s father, who happens to be a vampire hunter, his name is… Bill. What we have to have at least one normal name in there…
When? When is our story taking place?
Modern day or hundreds of years ago?
Let’s go with modern day.
Where? Where is the story taking place?
How about New York, lots of potential victims there…
“Mwah Ha Ha Ha!”
Now for the what…The what is basically the plot line of the story. So what I’m going to do is make a rough list of the main events that will happen in the story.
- Olivia Stroker falls in love with Victor Ironheart
- Victor’s ghostly best friend, Penelope Affron, warns him about a prophecy of a powerful vampire hunter that will lay waste to all vampires.
- Victor tries to break off relationship with Olivia, but she latches onto him anyway.
- Find out Olivia’s father, Bill, is a vampire hunter, but is he the one from the prophecy?
- Olivia struggles to choose between family and the love of her life.
- An ancient temple hidden in the subways of the city reveals itself to the Olivia and we come to find out that she is the powerful vampire hunter from the prophecy. PLOT TWIST!!!
- Now she must choose. Embrace her destiny and kill the love of her life? Or fight off the powers within her and save him?
- In the end, love wins through, and the vampire hunter gene is killed off forever. Or is it? Leave it open for a sequel.
Now that you have your main plotline, you can start putting it into an outline.
The what’s will continue to grow as you continue with the outlining process.
For example, for it to be a true romance, you’ll need to add in sub-plot points in between major plot points to build that love interest, especially in the beginning.
And throughout the story, you’ll have to develop the characters in a way that will showcase their motivations and true intentions. Thus adding a fifth W, Why. Why are they doing what they are doing?
Now that we have our five W’s, here are a few bonus items you can also brainstorm that will help you when you go on to the next step of outlining.
Number 1: A Character List
List out all your characters, including minor characters, so you can keep track of names and then add physical and personality characteristics for each one. And don’t worry about having to have all of them listed out in great detail, you’ll be adding to this list as you write.
Number 2: A Quote List
Have a couple of really profound quotes in your mind that you know you want to use but just don’t know when? Here’s where you put them.
Number 3: Symbols
Want to add some little easter eggs of some deep, mind-blowing stuff? Add those symbolism ideas here.
Number 4: Places
Here, you can list all the places you want to eventually have a scene at. Grand Central Station, Times Square, Rockefeller Center…
If they are real places, it helps if you’ve been there before, because if not, you’ll want to do some research first to make sure you get scenery descriptions right.
Number 5: Deaths
How often are characters dying? Who do you want to die?
Should we kill off Bill? It would make poor Olivia an orphan, but it would eliminate his threat to Victor…
List any planned character deaths here, and if it’s a main character who dies, make sure their death is a driving force for a plot point.
And Number 6: Random Ideas
These are the other random ideas you have floating around in your mind that you want to see happen but don’t know quite yet where to fit them in.
An eye is gouged out… A snake bite kills a vampire… Olivia has a near-death experience… Someone does hard drugs and when a vampire feeds on them, the vampire also gets high…
“Yes, I realize those were all quite morbid, but that’s just how my mind work.”
You may use these random ideas as you go forward, you may not. This list can get pages long if you really let your imagination soar.
Did these steps help you? As I said, this is just a crash course on brainstorming, and I plan to make more Outlining 101 videos in the future that will go in depth on the other steps to creating an outline, so keep an eye out for those.
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Bye, for now, Y’all.