Learn how to use story outlines like a professional writer with lessons developed by a published author.
What's the single biggest difference between professional authors and novices? Professionals know how to structure novels and stories for maximum dramatic effect. This course helps you develop the same story structuring skills the pros use. You will understand how your passion, theme, premise, and characters help you create the structure of your story, and discover how viewpoint, dialogue, pacing, and many other techniques are used to build scenes and move your story from beginning to end.
Each assignment in this course helps you develop your own original novel or story. As you apply each technique, your story will take shape, with a clear path from beginning to end. Before you know it, you will be prepared to write fiction like a pro.
- This course can be taken on either a PC or Mac device.
- PC: Windows 8 or newer.
- Mac: OS X Snow Leopard 10.6 or later.
- Browser: The latest version of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are preferred. Microsoft Edge and Safari are also compatible.
- Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click here to download the Acrobat Reader.
- Software must be installed and fully operational before the course begins.
- Email capabilities and access to a personal email account.
1 Story Structure
For the duration of this course, you will learn the techniques that professional authors use to write effectively and create a story structure that delivers maximum impact. This first lesson explores the idea of story structure and fundamental rules that successful fiction follows. You will also learn the often-misunderstood difference between story and plot.
2 The Dramatic Elements
At the heart of every story are the dramatic elements of passion, theme, character, and premise. Your passion is what drives you to tell your story, and the theme is the underlying message it carries. To convey your theme, you will create characters who represent that theme—either positively or negatively. Put all of these together and you have your premise. This lesson focuses on all of these elements.
Character is what story is all about. Without a character, and a change in that character, there can be no story. In this lesson, you will discover why the best characters are flawed. You will see how this applies to your main character—the protagonist—and the opposition forces of the antagonist. And finally, you will map out the other characters who round out your story.
4 Act 1: Hook, Backstory, and Trigger
This lesson is the first of three that focus on constructing a story outline, act by act. In Act 1, you will learn how to hook your readers. Then you will fill them in with some character history called backstory. And finally, you will exit Act 1 with a bang by triggering a traumatic event in the life of your protagonist.
5 Act 2: Crisis, Struggle, and Epiphany
If Act 1 ends with a bang, Act 2 starts with a whimper. Your protagonist begins in crisis, an emotional state brought on by his or her flaw. And because of that flaw, your protagonist will struggle throughout Act 2, as the antagonist delivers setback after setback. Fortunately, at the conclusion of Act 2 your protagonist finally figures out the source of all this emotional distress and how to overcome it.
6 Act 3: Plan, Climax, and Ending
The epiphany that ended Act 2 has prepared your protagonist for triumph in Act 3. Now it's time to devise a plan. The result will be a final confrontation with the antagonist. This lesson focuses on the best way to confront your antagonist—it's not what you might guess. Then, with that climax behind you, you're ready to tie up loose ends in the ending.
7 The Story Idea
You have accomplished a lot in the last few lessons. By now you should be pretty comfortable with story structure. The next three lessons take concepts you have learned and apply them to the development of a real novel. This first of these lessons focuses on using dramatic elements to create a character, his or her flaw, and then put it all together into a formal story idea.
8 The Story Outline
This lesson expands the story idea for a novel into the nine checkpoints of our three-act outline. This is quite a challenge for just one lesson, but you’re almost an expert at this story structuring by now.
9 The Long Form
Now that you have your outline, it's time for that magical moment when you begin expanding it into the long form. The actual novel is about to materialize. This lesson will teach you how to insert markers for the scenes that support and develop the outline.
10 Plan Like a Pro
One of the most important choices an author makes is viewpoint. It affects every aspect of the story—from theme, to pacing, to suspense. This lesson explores the three most common viewpoints—omniscient, third-person limited, and first person—and discover their advantages and disadvantages.
11 Plot Like a Pro
This lesson looks at techniques for refining your plot and controlling its pace. Then you will unravel the internal structure of various fiction pieces you've ever read, discovering a structure called scene and sequel.
12 Write Fiction Like a Pro
Now that your novel, play, or screenplay is well underway, it's time to think about polishing the finished product. This final lesson explores the techniques that make your writing sparkle, including tips on dialogue, imagery, and establishing your own unique voice.