How to Develop a Storyline

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Storylines are much like plotlines, except they deal more with the character's feelings and motivations as opposed to the actions of the characters. If you are writing a character-driven story instead of an action-driven story, this is the way to go to help you sort out all the details. There are several ways you can help develop a storyline. Follow this guide and you will be developing your storyline in no time.

  • Make an outline. Yes, go all the way back to junior high when you had to write an outline for you school papers. Don't worry. This outline is for you, so you don't have to remember all those Roman numerals. It should still be in the outline form. Start out with your main headings. Make these the feelings and motivations of your characters. In parenthesis, add what actions they brought about. Once these are finished, go back and add subheadings--smaller actions that help move the story forward. Outlines aren't usually written in complete sentences, although that is an option for you.

  • Create a story map. A story map is much like an outline, only less formal. Think of it as a letter to yourself, explaining what happens in story. Write this out broadly, with only a few specifics that will serve as reminders to you as you begin the first draft. Use complete sentences. Let your work take on a life of it's own as your write. You can go back and change things later. Be sure to include information about the characters that your story revolves around.

  • Develop the story framework or flow chart. Some writers may call this a timeline. This is to help you organize the sequence of events in your story. Character 1 felt "A" and did "B." Character 2 felt "X" and did "B." There isn't as many details in this form of developing a storyline. At this point, you aren't diving into your character's motivations. Once your are finished, you can go back and write your story map, adding more details as you discover the progression of your story and learn more about your characters.

  • Create a cause/effect diagram. This is especially useful when writing a storyline because it deals with the character's feelings and motivations. Your character felt a certain way and that led to a specific action. Write this out in complete sentences. It doesn't have to be in the order that it happened. You can sort that out later. Again, let the story flow from your brain (or heart) and allow it to develop without too much logical reasoning.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't get bogged down in the details yet. You can add those later.
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