Bubble outlines vs. linear outlines

I was finally conquering my procrastination at 1:30 this morning. The outline in an excel spreadsheet lay before me. It was deeply dissatisfying, because I had all these thoughts and needed to organize them before I could write that one hour sentence, then expand to paragraphs, and do characters.

I’d seen my wife teaching my son bubble outlines, where you draw a circle around something, then write other things and put arrows and more circles. I’m not quite sure if there’s a procedure that they teach you in bubble school. I never had that class, so I made it up as I went.

All the things I knew about the character – some sort of past abuse she’d had on the planet, something mysterious about her origins, issues with the armor, those all came together nicely. I see the sub-plots of the Empire vs. Newcomer, betrayal, conspiracy, insurgency.  I need to fix the protag’s character defects/virtue, and remap all the characters. I found a good antag, and it’s a question of why he is withholding important and useful information. Must remap antag’s character defects/virtues, then introduce him so we can build up that story arc.  I see one major plot line and three subplots which are integral to the major plot line.  I think I can do it as a linear plot, no flashback necessary or prologue or such.

Next: To map out the entire arc of the book. What’s the main conflict? What must be overcome? Once this is defined, I can see what the climax is going to be and then how the rest of the nested sub-plots will contribute.  That major conflict is the problem.

2 thoughts on “Bubble outlines vs. linear outlines

  1. Main climax is normally difficult, as you wonder if it is enough… Then working out how to actually overcome it!! Do people realise how much work is involved in a story?!


  2. The climax thing is pretty crazy. It brings to mind the idea of duex ex machina, god from a machine. The Greeks were doing it 6000 years ago: They’d write a plot and apparently revisions were impossible, so they’d just have a god come down and save the character at the climax. Just because they didn’t have tvtropes.com doesn’t mean they didn’t have some hard and fast tropes. Those examples are the only surviving ones–there was tons of material that wasn’t written down or survived.

    As far as the work in a story, I don’t think so. Stephen King doesn’t help. That guy totally ruins it for new writers. Makes it look easy.

    Maybe writing is like flying fighter planes, or painting, or running a business. There’s people who are naturally good at it, and they breeze through and everyone fawns on them. “Mozart is so wonderful!” they exclaim. Meanwhile, the artist who isn’t full of natural ease, one who has to work for it, is struggling along and their work isn’t… brilliant. It’s not created in a few short hours of a lovely summer afternoon, with plenty of time to make crepes and sangrias and discuss something off-color. These people eke out every word, they sweat blood, and then people who love them force them to edit those eked words to make them better, and in the end, if they turn out decent work, it was at a cost.

    Sort of like the widow’s mite. She gave everything. That artist over there is barely using 5% and it’s easy. Because sangrias.


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