Write-it Wednesday #4 — Outnine

22 Jun

And no, that’s not a typo.

What exactly is an “outnine”? It’s an outline . . . in nine sentences.

The exercise comes from my new favorite writing book Story Physics by Larry Brooks (see the Bookshelf), specifically page 140. (The punny title however, is mine).

You’re going to tell me your story in nine sentences, and between them it should cover the entire arc of your story.

It looks something like this:

  1. HOOK — Why, of all the books on the shelf, is the reader going to pick yours? What premise, place, time, character, narrative decision, etc will grab the reader and keep them invested as the ball gets rolling?
  2.  SET UP — Introduce the world, characters, stakes, plot elements etc that will be the fuel on your literary bonfire
  3. FIRST PLOT POINT/ACT BREAK — Light said bonfire — your set-up has reached a tipping point, and things can’t stay the same anymore. Your hero decided to take the journey that will fix it.
  4. RESPONSE — The hero reacts to the new world their quest has brought them too; both hero and reader take some time reacting to and understanding the new surroundings, enjoying the magic school, dystopian death match, or conspiracy theory that was promised on the back cover.
  5. MIDPOINT— Before the new world can get old, something big happens, something new that raises the stakes and inspires the hero to take action and face the problem head on.
  6. ATTACK — The hero deals with internal and external conflicts as they fight their way to their goals. They understand how they need to change, and how to use the information they’ve been collecting along the way, but they won’t be able to complete their quest because one key piece of information is missing.
  7. SECOND PLOT POINT/ACT BREAK — Huzzah! The final piece to the puzzle! The hero now has all the information necessary  to complete their quest and save the day! (NO NEW INFO BEYOND THIS POINT)
  8. FINALE — The hero must summon the growth and courage they’ve gained on their journey, using skills practiced, information collected, allies made, and lessons learned during the Response and Attack phases of the journey
  9. ENDING/RESOLUTION — The hero returns to their original world a better person, with the problems they maybe maybe didn’t even realized they had solved.

Now, I  don’t know how much sense that makes if you a) haven’t read the book, or b) aren’t very familiar with plot structure. And even if you are familiar with one story structure model or another, this one might be new. Except it isn’t.

Outnine in Save the Cat! terms:

  1. Opening Image
  2. Set-up
  3. Break into Act II
  4. Promise of the Premise
  5. Midpoint
  6. Bad Guys Close In
  7. Break into Act III
  8. Finale
  9. Final Image

It works out perfectly, because these structures are essentially the same. Because story structures are all the same, because structurally, most good and relatively modern stories are the same on a structural level. And that’s great for you! Because now you have a roadmap to follow, a canvas to paint on, a Lord Business LEGO world to Master Build the hell out of, etc.

As always, if  you aren’t working on a big project, or even if you are, consider breaking a popular book or movie down this way. That would be a great think to add as a post or comment!



One Response to “Write-it Wednesday #4 — Outnine”

  1. NerdyWordyOverlord June 23, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    For example: (and no, I didn’t proofread, thank you very much . . .)

    Sorcerer’s Stone Outnine

    1. The Dursleys might be “perfectly normal, thank you very much,” but clearly things around them are not. What’s causing the strange sightings, and why are the Dursley’s so afraid of it? Oh, wizards. Wizards, magic, mysterious evil, and an accidental hero, that’s why.
    2. Harry Potter lives an unfortunate life, constantly neglected by his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, and bullied by his cousin Dudley. He’s the last boy you’d ever expect something extraordinary or even remotely interesting to happen to, though and escalating series of events hint at wonder and adventure, if only his family wasn’t so adamant that wonder never reach him.
    3. Wonder finally breaks down the door, and Harry discovers he’s a wizard, and not just any old wizard — he’s famous.
    4. Harry might not remember the deed he’s famous for, but the rest of the wizarding world seems too. He must reconcile the expectations everyone seems to have of him with his ignorance of the magical world as he prepares for and journeys to Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry and begins his new life as a wizard.
    5. After a troll attack startles the school on Halloween night, Harry and his friends find themselves witnessing a conspiracy that could reek havoc on the wizarding world.
    6. The trio begins to hunt for answers, sneaking around in Harry’s invisibility cloak to try to unravel the mystery that a dangerous magical artifact called the Sorcerer’s Stone is being held at the school for protection—and someone’s out to steal it. Their suspicion falls on teacher who seems to have it out for Harry, and their search placed them in the path of the mysterious villain in the deadly Forbidden Forest.
    7. The mystery comes together when Harry realizes his friend the groundkeeper has been tricked into revealing how to get past the enchantments guarding the Sorcerer’s Stone. When they report this, they learn the headmaster, the Stone’s true protector, has been lured away.
    8. The only thing left for Harry and his friends to keep the powerful Stone out of evil is to steal it themselves. To reach it they must traverse a series of protective enchantments devised by their teachers to foil much stronger, older wizards. Once through, it’s up to Harry alone to keep the stone from the dark wizard Voldemort, with whom he finally comes face to face . . . again.
    9. Harry wakes up, having been rescued at the last moment by the headmaster’s return. End-of-school activities commence, and Harry and his friends are rewarded at the End-of-Term feast before departing on the train back to the non-magical world, safe in the knowledge that no matter how rough life is with the Dursleys, Harry now knows exactly where he belongs.

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