@Sanguine shows how to use The Snowflake Method
Before writing a story, it is best to be organised. You may think now that you can keep everything in your head, but your memory is not perfect. You will most probably forget everything that you have thought of before you know it, so it’s best to write things down. However, too much planning can cause you to lose interest in your story, and that’s what this blog is on: A way to plan without getting bored. This is The Snowflake Method.
STEP ONE: Don’t concentrate on anything big. Don’t focus on names, or anything like that. Take some time, and summarise your entire plot in one sentence.
Example: “A poor waitress is out to get revenge for her husband’s murder.”
This should be less than twenty words. Too much happening right now is far too confusing. Keep this as your main focus for the story, and don’t let anything else interrupt. Tweak this constantly until you are happy with it.
Forget names, appearances, world building, and any kind of detailed analysis that you want to conduct. The little details aren’t important. Right now, you should not focus on whether or not your main character has freckles, but rather on what they want to win. The character in the example above wants revenge. The wants are what builds up a story. They want to figure out the mystery, she wants to get the guy or he wants to get the job.
STEP TWO: Take that sentence and turn it into a paragraph. This paragraph consists of the introduction, your plot and your conclusion. Generally, you will have several (two, three four-ish) events, so include the major ones in this. This paragraph should be about five or six sentences long, and it doesn’t have to be that well written. This is not your blurb, so do not think of it as such. A blurb should not contain spoilers, whereas this paragraph will be nothing but spoilers.
Example: “When a poor waitress is left a widow, she has to find out who killed her husband. During this period of time, her neighbour who had been her friend for more than ten years admitted that he was in love with her, effectively putting a strain on their friendship. The two ignore the matter for some weeks, but disaster strikes when he is murdered in his bathroom with a single word pinned to his shirt on a piece of paper: Love. The waitress grows more and more concerned for her own safety as she finds threatening messages all over her house. A stranger turns up on her doorstep, telling her that if she did not leave the country, she would be next. Fortunately, video surveillance caught the happenings on tape, including the man’s license plate, and police officers track him to an abandoned warehouse where they find the man and our protagonist’s sister, who orchestrated the whole thing in jealousy.”
This is a lot more in depth than the one sentence starter that you had, and makes sure that you have a straight plot for your story. There’s no randomly veering down a side road with this!
STEP THREE: Your characters have not been developed yet, so this is where you take the time to do that. Different characters have different stories, so you take steps one and two and you base them on your characters. You will need:
- Your character’s name. No way are we going through the entire story saying “a poor waitress”!
- One sentence that sums up your character’s storyline. One character will probably have the same sentence as the story, but that is generally the main character and no other.
- What your character believes (their values/beliefs/what is important to them) – this is not like religion. It could be like family is important to your characters, but their work is not.
- What does your character want? (Think abstract)*
- What is your character’s goal? (Think concrete)*
- What conflict does your character experience? (Internal/physical struggle)
- What does your character learn?
- Write a paragraph summary of your character’s storyline.
* An abstract concept is something that you cannot always see or touch. A concrete one is something that can be seen or known.
STEP FOUR: Look at the paragraph summary of your story in STEP TWO. For every sentence you will write a paragraph, and the paragraph will have expanded to be a page or so (depending on how much you write for each paragraph). This step tells you whether or not your story is worth writing. If you don’t like it here, then at least you know and you can pull out before you are too far in.
This is also great for staying on track with your story, much like STEP TWO. It is great when you aren’t totally sure where to go next. Which way – left or right?
You now have directions!
STEP FIVE: Go back to STEP THREE and take a look at what you have written for your characters. Now take that, and expand on it ‘til it’s about a page (once again, a paragraph for each sentence). This step is extremely fun as it makes you learn new things about your character – don’t be afraid to try different things! Go back to STEP THREE if you want to, and change certain things about your characters. People love reading about characters with different. Just take a look at the writers you love and you’ll see just how many different their characters can be!
STEP SIX: Make the page-long summary that you wrote four pages long. Take each paragraph and expand on it, so you have a more concrete idea of your story. Go crazy with your imagination! This is where you make big, strategic decisions, and you can see the logic in different areas. Go back and change certain details if you need to; you aren’t shackled to what you put at the beginning. It’s your story, so don’t be afraid to make drastic changes.
STEP SEVEN: Now you want to turn your characters into real people with characteristics. This is where you imagine what your characters look like, what weird habits they have, and whatnot. When is their birthday, what colour is their hair, what do they do for fun, what changes about them by the end of the novel (example: Lizzie from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (and Pride and Prejudice) learns to never judge a book by its cover – even if that cover has bad manners). You will probably go through your plan so far and tweak things to suit you, but you know you have it right when your characters dictate which way your story goes. One selfish character + one selfish act could change the whole course of the story.
STEP EIGHT: Take that four page plot you wrote and note down every single scene you have in it. Even the little ones that you think are unimportant need to be written down. Then, you need to organise these scenes. To do this, the easiest way is to make a spreadsheet.
This step is a bit daunting for most writers, but it’s really not. If you are confused about it at all, then maybe by a book on it. There are so many books out there for this purpose, so don’t be afraid to try them out.
In this spreadsheet make it only one line for each scene. In different columns, list the main character of that scene and what happens in the scene (this should be a large column). Some people also write how many pages they expect the scene to be, but that isn’t actually important.
As you delve deeper into your story you will most probably make some drastic changes. In most cases, it’s a good idea to make more than one spreadsheet with different scenes in some places so you have a lot more freedom with your story.
STEP NINE: Start expanding your story. Take each line from your spreadsheet and turn it into a paragraph. If you can see dialogue happening in a certain scene then make a note of it. This is also where you start thinking of conflict in your story and which scenes you want to cut out of the story entirely. Anything you want to remember about a certain scene goes in your notes.
STEP TEN: Now go write your first draft! You will be surprised at the amount of depth you have in your story.