Requirements, prerequisites and preconditions.
Question: (First off, this is not my native language so please forgive me any mistakes)
I've come across some uncertainties while outlining my novel (using the 8 step outlining method). My story is about a boy who has entered a fantasy world by chance and his goal is to return to his world. In order to achieve that he must acquire a certain object possessed by the evil queen, to re-open the portal. Before he will be able to face her however, he must master the four elemental swordfight powers but before he can do that, he needs to learn general swordfight.(Latter takes place when he is younger, it takes some years for him to learn basic swordfight. I've simplified the plot a bit to make things easier).
The goal is to return to his world. Now, if the requirement is to acquire said object to re-open the portal, the prerequisite is to defeat the queen. Is the mastering of the elemental swordfight the precondition? What's the basic swordfight study then? Should I combine "acquire object" and "defeat queen" as the requirement?
The problem here is, all the events build on one another. I can't have multiple requirements because there's only one way things can happen to achieve the goal.
I hope this question is not too confusing because I am quite confused...Answer:
First, remember that the story goal is the goal that involves or affects most of the characters. It sounds to me that the key concern in your story world is the possession or control of
the object which the Queen currently has. Hence, the Queen is the antagonist who prevents this goal from being achieved while the boy is the protagonist pursuing it.
To confirm this, consider what would happen in the story world if the Queen loses the object. Would it bring about a better situation not just for the boy but for others in the story world? If so, then obtaining the object is the goal.
It also sounds to me that the requirements are the mastery of the four techniques of swordsmanship. They form a kind of checklist structure to the story, so that each time the boy masters a skill we can see he is getting closer to the goal. This is what is meant by "multiple requirements."
Prerequisites are things which make it easier to meet the requirements, but may not be essential. This could be receiving the basic training, getting a special sword, finding a teacher, etc.
Preconditions are the opposite to prerequisites. They are rules or stipulations laid down by some character or authority that make things more difficult for the characters, that force them to find less direct routes to their objectives. You can think of them as the "red tape" of a story.
For example, you could have a rule that the Queen can only be defeated on a certain day, or only by someone who meets a certain height requirement, or that all challengers must memorize 3,000 lines of poetry, or any other rule that throws an obstacle in the character's path.
Hope that helps.