How to plan a narrative

How to plan a narrative

Writing a story is like camping – it’s intense. Before you put together your opening scene, you should work out where the tentpoles go.

Tentpoles, we say. What?

Think of a story as being like camping. You’re in a tent,which is held up by those poles so you can sleep on the hard ground and wishyou were in a cabin. And then it rains. That’s your story, give or take therain and whinging.

Think about what’s going to happen in it (your story, not the tent). Work out who the characters are, what they’re up to and – most importantly – where they’re going to end up when it’s finished. Knowing the ending to your story is a huge help in planning out everything that happens before it. It’s like a campfire in the dark that you can aim for after you spent too long bushwalking and the sun went down.

Don’t have an ending?

Read this article then come back to us. But you can stilluse this technique even if you’re not quite sure how it’s all going to finish.

Every story has tentpoles – say, five things that have tohappen or the story doesn’t work (the tent falls down). They could be thingslike a boy finding a magic fish or a woman discovering her husband has a secondfamily or a serial killer bagging his first victim or a girl finding a gun whenshe’s digging through a bin outside a TV station or… look, we could do thisforever.

So what you do is write down as many of these tentpoles that need to happen for your story to work. It doesn’t have to be five – the idea is to identify the points in your story that are most important. That way, when you actually get crack-a-lackin’ on the proper writing part, you’ll know what to do.

Uhh… what do you do?

You fill in the narrative gaps between those tentpoles. Figure out how you’re going to get your characters from one spot to the next; the actions and conversations needed to link everything up. Having those tentpoles is a very handy guide for what you have to write, and a great way to keep your story on track.

Remember, things can change

Sometimes when you are writing a story, you get a betteridea than the one you started off with. This might mean ditching some of yourtentpoles and replacing them with new ones. Totally fine! Use the work you’vealready done to ensure everything still makes sense.

Then get writing!


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