Author Advice: Knowing Where to Go, AKA the Outline

20171113_200146Writing any piece of fiction can be daunting, especially when you are aiming for a novel with many subplots and characters. This doesn’t mean writing a short story is easier though, it’s just different. Whatever it is your goal to produce, there is a tool that can help you, and it is call the outline.

Let’s start by defining what an outline is. Basically, it is like a map of the country that is your story. It can be color coded and extremely detailed, or it can be a pencil drawn sketch. Whatever the shape of your outline might be, it is important that it helps you grasp the shape of your story.

There are many ways to outline, and you can find a wide variety of forms online, so I will not go into too great detail here but rather focus on those important points your outline should touch on and the questions it should answer.

 

1. Who Is Who

You should know everyone in the story. Who is the protagonist, who is the antagonist? What are their motivations, what are their flaws, what are their secrets, and what can make them hurt? Who else is in the story? Who are those people?

Make sure your characters are well defined those few questions, make sure they have their own way of talking, distinguishing features and so forth. If all men in your book are tall, handsome, and dark haired with blue eyes, and if they all talk the exact same way, it will be hard for the reader to keep track of them and more importantly, to care about them.

 

2. What Is Happening

This should go without saying, but you as the writer should be able to clearly state what your story is about, in no more than one sentence!

A boy who spend his whole life neglected and living in a cupboard below the stair learns that he is really a wizard.

See what I mean? Knowing what is happening in your story will help give that story a clear character that is easily recognizable. More often than not, this will also help you figure out where to start with the story.

 

3. The Conflict

You need one, believe me. Maybe someone really wants something they can’t have, maybe there’s a killer or a monster on the loose or the universe is in peril. There must be a conflict, and it must potentially be one the protagonist can solve.

On the other side of that, you will need your antagonist (this could even be a thing, and asteroid on course to destroy all life on Earth for instance.) They should be at least as strong if not stronger than your protagonist, and they too need to be invested in the conflict, just completely opposite to your protagonist’s investment.

 

4. Forward Movement/Tension Building

Here is where you can show us your characters, how they think, how they do things, but don’t be random about that. Whatever happens, it must propel the overall plot forward. Detours are only allowed if they serve to move a subplot forward, but other than that, keep it tight and turning like a top.

In this part, it is not necessary to let your protagonist and antagonist come into contact yet.

 

5. The Climax

In terms of action or suspense, this should be the pinnacle of both. Here is where you can really use what you know about the characters, specifically your main character: what hurts them, what are their weaknesses? Make sure to hit them with worthy obstacles, obstacles that are so much worse, situations that are so much more dire than we would have expected during the conflict phase.

This is the part of the story where the protagonist and the antagonist clash, so the stakes should be very high. While this should be the highest point for your protagonist, be sure to hurt them at this stage. If you make the experience of going through the climax too easy for your protagonist, your readers will be bored. Your antagonist too should be at their best with all their universe destroying tendencies showing.

 

6. Despair

Things are bad, very bad indeed. Despair is closely intertwined with the climax, and when I said earlier that you should hurt your protagonist, this despair is the result; the protagonist feels overwhelmed and helpless. The evil robot found the launch codes for the nuclear missiles because your protagonist failed to destroy them. The genetically modified super-squid figured out it can mind control people because fighting the protagonist made him think a million vengeful thoughts, and they popped into the minds of innocent bystanders. Who feel compelled to act on them.

The protagonist should be very much in the middle of this situation, the pressure should be high. The goal here is to force them to rise above and beyond what they themselves thought they were capable of: the protagonist realizes all that hacking as a teenager paid off, and they can hack into the evil robot’s brain and make them self destruct. The hero\s years of meditation and martial arts training rendered them impervious to the squid’s mind control, and said martial arts training gives them a fair fighting chance against the Eight-Armed Wonder.

Notice that usually the solution to overcome despair should be deep within the protagonist. Don’t make it too easy for them either! If it’s too simple, the reader will feel cheated.

 

7. Resolution

Things get better. You don’t need to make the ending of your story a happy one, but one way or another, depending on what genre you are writing in, your conflict needs to be resolved. The evil robot might be turned into a vacuum cleaner by the protagonist or the Eight-Armed Wonder could be injected with a serum that makes him go back to being your average squid. Make the resolution feel real and believable in the context of your story.

Any subplots that were happening must likewise find their conclusion here, the lovers may finally kiss so to speak.

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These seven points should have their firm place in your outline. It will make writing the story a lot easier, and if you don’t know when and how certain points happen, it is a clear indicator that you should invest a little more time in the planning and brainstorming stage. This will save you time later, once you do get to the writing stage.

Personally, I think figuring out all these things about the story and the characters makes writing it that much more fun, because while you plan everything, I at least tend to get very excited about the story. And if that isn’t the best mindset for writing a thing, then I don’t know what is.

Release of Luminous Dreams

Luminous Dreams is back, and it looks so…hot!

Relax, close your eyes…and dream.

luminous-dreams-front1Nine tales, nine sensual dreams of enchantment, wanderlust and lovers’ longings, of searching and finding; these dreams tell of birds of fire, curses that lie like bridges between night and day, and hunger for sweet seduction.

Publisher: World Weaver Press

ISBN: 978-0-9977888-5-3

ASIN: B01M7UBG0H

Number of pages: 140

Word Count: 40,000

Buy the book on Amazon, or directly at World Weaver Press.


 And, of course, a treat. Here’s an excerpt from “Fortune’s Song,” one of the nine stories in this book:

“Of all of them, you are the only one who has ever come to me willingly,” he said, his midnight eyes boring into hers. She could see the darkness draining from the irises, leaving just silver, strange and unnatural. She had known that he was other, but only now did she fully grasp what that meant.

She opened her mouth to speak, but her voice wouldn’t obey her.

“You came willingly,” he said again, reaching for her with his right hand. His palm came to rest on her neck, pulled her closer, not in a needy way, just steady, steady, ever so gently, until her wordless lips met his.

Her lips were parted still, and his tongue caressed hers, exploring and tasting, gently at first, but very soon hard and insistent.

“Willingly,” he said between kisses. His hands, until then just holding her, began to explore, sliding down her spine and lower still, cupping her behind.

She realized her hands were holding him also, if less tightly. And she wondered why she wasn’t holding him life vest tight. After all, was he not the most gorgeous man she had ever met? So what if he was old as song and cursed by the King of Shadows?

She decided to take what she wanted, pulling his shirt off like an explorer pushing back the borders of false maps to discover a new continent.

~~~

Cover Reveal: Luminous Dreams

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Here it is, and isn’t this an amazing new cover for this hot collection?

To celebrate the new cover (the old one got a bit singed because the content is just too hot) there is one additional story in the book now. This means that even if you knew the old cover, picking up this new and shinier version won’t bore you in the least!

You can check out some of the content here. If you just want to buy the book though, that’s fine, Amazon lets you pre-order your copy or you can order it directly from World Weaver Press. Luminous Dreams will be available again on December 13.

Also, massive thanks to Cori Vidae, my lovely editor. Luminous Dreams would not be here without her!

ETA 12/1: If you are in the US and want to win one of eight copies, check out to Goodreads giveaway!

 

New Cover

Luminous Dreams is getting a new (and sizzling) cover. But that’s actually not all. To celebrate the new (and sizzling) design, there’s a whole new story in there as well. The release date is the 30th of this month, so keep tuned!

Luminous Dreams is here!

LUMINOUS DREAMS cover

As of September 22 (was that really only five days ago??) my hot short story collection, Luminous Dreams, is out there in the wild. I am extremely happy with it. Without the editorial talents of Cori Vidae and the great people over at Red Moon Romance, the little book would not be what it is, so I am immensely grateful to them.

There is a little…post about it on the Red Moon Romance blog. My alter ego has been writing about it here and here (she can be a little mean, and I think her concerns about Valerian are completely unfounded.) Cori has a lil something on her website as well.

But actually, you want to know more about what’s in the book, don’t you? Well, there is shapeshifting. There is magic also, plenty of it. Yes, there are even vampires (note the plural.) There is of course a lot of romance in there, also sex. If it sounds like something you are interested, do take a peek. If you feel like you want to contact me during or after, leave a comment here or click ‘Contact’ on the left of this site to get in touch. I always love to hear what readers think!

 

Announcing Luminous Dreams

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This is very much overdue, but what can I say? Life keeps me busy. Luminous Dreams, a collection of eight sexy short stories, sold to RMR where it landed in the capable hands of editor Cori Vidae. Here, before I start blabbing, you should read this:

Relax, close your eyes…and dream. Eight tales, eight sensual dreams of enchantment, wanderlust and lovers’ longings, of searching and finding; these dreams tell of birds of fire, curses that lie like bridges between night and day, and hunger for sweet seduction.
This should give you an idea of what to expect. 😉

Demons, Imps, and Incubi: they are here!

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Oh, doesn’t it look shiney? I am so very please to welcome this collection on bookshelves both digital and real, not least of all because my…lovely if demanding Valerian managed to squeeze his ego between the covers and into a well assembled table of contents.

I feel like I owe a massive dose of THANK YOU!s to editor extraordinaire Laura Harvey (aka Mistress of the Red Pen); thank you, Laura, for every single comment and correction.

Readers, you might find these little contributor interviews here and here of interest.

Also, if you read it, please feel free to let me know how you liked Measures of Greed. Valerian, too, would undoubtedly…love to hear from you. I’ll gladly pass on notes and comments. :}

Story Sale: Measures of Greed

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© Alexa Piper

I am quite delighted that the first announcement I get to make on this shiny site is a story sale. My short story Measures of Greed sold to Red Moon Romance.

The story will appear in the anthology Demons, Imps, and Incubi, to be released in summer 2015 and edited by Laura Harvey, Mistress of sharp pens.

Measures introduces Valerian, who is a very sweet guy…just kidding. He’s not sweet, but then again, not all candy is made from honey alone. I’m sure you’ll still enjoy the read.