Outline "signposts" confusion
by Magdalena Nozarova
I've been using your article "Writing an Outline of Your Novel" to further develop my already existing structure of a novel. It was tremendously helpful, but I've stumbled upon a problem. After defining signposts of the main plot, the main character arc, two impact character arcs and two relationship arcs, I noticed several of the signposts are in the same scene (and it feels rather natural - like grouping the first signpost of an obstacle arc with the fist signpost of a relationship arc into one scene). Yet in your article you treat all the signposts as separate scenes. Is it necessary to assign individual scene to each signpost? Does including more than one signpost in a single scene create some kind of confusion or "plot clustering"?
Thank you in advance.Response:
Actually, I find it's more useful to think of signposts as events rather than scenes.
Events are irreversible and meaningful changes. Often, a scene is an event that happens at a particular place and time, which is why people often think of a signpost as a key scene.
However, it is also possible to have several events occur in the same scene - that is, without jumping to a different place or time.
It is helpful, however, to keep all your signposts as separate events; that is, to not make one event serve as two signposts.
For instance, let's say the first signpost in the impact character arc is the event where the main character sees the impact character do something he could never do, or in a way he wouldn't. Maybe he sees him cheat in a sports try-out.
Then, perhaps the first signpost in the relationship throughline is where the two of them are asked to be partners in a sports competition.
Now, you could put each of these two events into a separate scene, or you could put them both into one scene, as long as they remained separate events.
For instance, the main character could, from a distance, see the impact character cheat and be thinking, "What a loser." Then - same scene but a moment later - the coach calls the main character over to the impact character and says, "Boys, meet your new best friend. I want the two of you to be partners."
It's also possible to take any signpost and break it down into a sequence of events that could take place in one scene, or be spread across several scenes.