Outlining Part 2 | Behind the Story

The outlining methods this week get a bit more in depth than last week’s. Again, these are going to be super simplified just to give you an idea of how they work. If you plan to use any of these, there is a lot more in-depth information elsewhere on the internet on how to use them correctly. This should get you started though.

Snowflake Method

This method has 10 steps. It starts small and slowly expands until you’ve basically got your whole novel figured out.

  1. Write a one sentence summary of your novel
  2. Turn that sentence into a paragraph consisting of 5 sentences
  3. Write a 1 page summary for each main character
  4. Take each sentence from Step 2 and turn it into a paragraph
  5. Write a 1 page summary of the story for each main character, told from their perspective
  6. Take each paragraph from Step 4 and turn them into full pages
  7. Make character charts for each main character. These are essentially detailed character sheets that add to the information you already wrote in Step 3
  8. Make a list of every scene you will need to write
  9. Turn each scene into a paragraph
  10. Write the draft

Save the Cat Beat Sheet

I don’t know why it’s called Save the Cat, but a Beat Sheet has 15 “beats”, or main plot points. It was created for screenwriting, but it applies to story telling in general.

  1. Opening Image The first scene. This sets the tone for the story that will follow
  2. Theme Stated A subtle mention of the theme that will be developed. Usually, the main character just doesn’t get it because it’s not important to them yet.
  3. Set-up The main character’s current world state is established
  4. Catalyst The unusual thing that happens, the inciting incident, or the call to adventure
  5. Debate Does our main character really want to enter this new world?
  6. Break Into Two The main character does something that sets the story in motion. Crossing the Threshold, if you will
  7. B Story As the next phase of the story begins, a subplot develops. This will more than likely effect the choices the main character makes later on
  8. Fun and Games The main character is fully into their new world now, things happen, they have to adjust
  9. Midpoint At this point the main character will either get what they wanted, or lose everything
  10. Bad Guys Close In Consequences change the state that the midpoint set
  11. All is Lost Pretty self explanatory. Things are not looking good at this point
  12. Dark Night of the Soul The lowest point for our main character. This is when they realize everything is awful and it’s probably something to do with them, but they also learn something about themselves at this point also
  13. Break Into Three From whatever they learned in Dark Night of the Soul, the main character has an idea and makes another effort to resolve the disaster they are now in
  14. Finale With themselves changed, and the theme fully realized, the main character makes their final decisions and last efforts and things are being resolved
  15. Final Image The last scene, where the fact of the character’s change is clearly shown

Four Part

This is pretty much like 3 Act, but the climax gets its own part. So there is the Setup, the Response, the Attack, and the Resolution.

Six Part

Still 3 Act, but with twice the parts. The Setup, the introduction of a New Situation, Progress as we enter the unfamiliar, Complications where things get intense, the Final Push that leads up to the climax, and, of course, the Aftermath to resolve everything.


I’ve heard of something called a Book Skeleton. I’m pretty sure it’s just like the snowflake method, but I can’t find any information on it anymore. Maybe I made it up, who knows. The point is, there are endless ways to break down the main parts that most good stories contain and say, “this is how you make a story.” But you can’t just make cookie cutter stories all the time. Not all stories resolve everything at the end, not all stories have just one main character, lots of stories have multiple things going on all the time because that’s just how things work.

If any of these work for you and help you, that’s awesome. Really, it is. Even if you use different ones for different stories. That’s even better. I don’t use any of these specifically, but I incorporate elements of them while I’m writing. Not always consciously, but I’ve experienced enough stories in various forms to know what I think makes a good story and what I think doesn’t. Let me know if there are any story structures I missed, or if I was completely wrong about any of them. I may not use them, but they’re still interesting to learn about.