Outline, Meet Reality. Reality, Meet Outline.

A White Walker from Game of Thrones

A White Walker from Game of Thrones

At Midnight sharp, J and I and a couple dozen WriMos in our area started writing our NaNoWriMo novels together at the local Denny’s. I managed to churn out 1,100 words before bed, which isn’t a bad start, since you need to average 1,667 words a day to reach 50K by the end of the month, and I will surely write more before November 1 comes to an end. However, when I pick my journal back up to start writing, I probably won’t be continuing with Chapter 1. Instead, I realized I need an Ice Monster Prologue.

The Ice Monster Prologue is another plotting idea we picked up from Dan Wells and his Seven-Point System for structuring a story. If you remember, we discussed the system during our outlining series, but we did not mention the Ice Monster Prologue, so let me explain it now. Rather than beginning a story with the Hook, sometimes a story needs a prologue to make a promise of things to come. Dan Wells uses the example of Game of Thrones (the novel). The way the novel and the entire Song of Ice and Fire series are constructed, there’s not a lot of magic in the early going, so George RR Martin opens the story with a magical Prologue–corpses in the frozen North come back to life to kill everyone they see (the White Walkers). With this tease of things to come, GRRM can now start telling the less magical story of political wrangling between the Starks and Lannisters and the rest of the houses.

Because an important part of the NaNo ethic is to just write, get something down, I plowed on with my outline in the early hours of today at Denny’s, but I knew something felt off. It felt, frankly, a little dull. Now, I need to get some important information across in the first chapter, and I need Oleg to be happy so as to contrast how miserable he will be later, but none of it is a compelling way to open a novel. So on the drive home, when I couldn’t be writing, only thinking and discussing the issue with J, I realized what I need is an Ice Monster Prologue. I need to introduce the villainess, who is a wizard, doing something cruel and magical. But what exactly? We started asking those important questions I always like to ask about my characters: What does she want? Why does she want it? What is she willing to do to get it? And voila! I knew precisely what to do in my Prologue to introduce this character and the eventual tone of the novel, as well as making it an opening to pull the reader through the more leisurely pace and happy tone of the first chapter.

And now, I need to go write it!



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