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Tuesday
Mar082011

The Great Note Card Novel Outlining Experiment

As I mentioned last week, I'm working on the outline for my sex-tape noire novel, and I got to a the beginning of the second act (assuming three acts here) and realized I had put a whole lot of characters and events into play. I've long heard tell of writers using note cards to figure this kind of thing out and to plot in general, so I thought I'd give it a try. I even had an old, unopened pack of 3x5's in the closet from the last time I thought about doing this. I've got six characters in play here: the protagonist and five others of antagonistic or at least mysterious intent, and together they've got a very busy day planned. 

I made lists of each character's possible actions on the day in question and then wrote them out on separate note cards. I also gave each character a different color. The result was this:

So far it's been really helpful! It let me organize their actions in a timeline for each character and line them up next to each other, giving me a nice overhead view at their various intersecting arcs.

The different colors will come in handy in the next step, when I'll make notes on each card where different actions interact with one another. A lot of these cards are about characters fucking with each other, after all. Then I'll go through and assign a time of day to each event and the result will be a big old timeline for the middle act of the book, culminating in something really terrible happening to at least one of these people. 

I'm officially positive on this note card experiment, especially for something like this. I'll let you know how it goes. 

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