Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An Example Short Story Skeleton Plot

Here is an good example of a starting outline for a plot (see Start With a Simple Skeleton Plot), for a story entitled "The Ambitious Guest":

¶ 1.
The scene is a tavern located at the Notch in the White Hills.
The time, a September night.
The place is in danger from landslides and falling stones.
The family—father, mother, grandmother, daughter and children—are gathered happily about the hearth.
¶ 2, 3.
The tavern is on a well-frequented road.
¶ 4-7.
A young stranger enters, looking rather travel-worn, but quickly brightens up at his warm reception.
¶ 8, 9.
A stone rolls down the mountain side.
¶ 10.
The guest, though naturally reticent, soon becomes familiar with the family.
¶ 11.
The secret of the young man's character is high and abstracted ambition.
¶ 12.
He is as yet unknown.
¶ 13, 14.
He is sensible of the ludicrous side of his ambition.
¶ 15.
The daughter is not ambitious.
¶ 16-19.
The father's ambition is to own a good farm, to be sent to General Court, and to die peacefully.
¶ 20-23.
The children wish for the most ridiculous things.
¶ 24-27.
A wagon stops before the inn, but drives on when the landlord does not immediately appear.
¶ 28-31.
The daughter is not really content.
¶ 32.
The family picture.
¶ 33-37.
The grandmother tells of having prepared her grave-clothes.
Fears if they are not put on smoothly she will not rest easily.
¶ 38, 39.
She wishes to see herself in her coffin.
¶ 40, 41.
They hear the landslide coming.
¶ 42.
All rush from the house and are instantly destroyed.
The house is unharmed.
The bodies are never found.
¶ 43, 44.
Even the death of the ambitious guest is in doubt.
You will notice that this working plot omits many little details which are too trivial to set down, or which probably would not occur to one until the actual writing; and all the artistic touches that make the story literature are ruthlessly shorn away, for they are part of the treatment, not of the plot.

This method of permitting you to study your crude material in the concrete will prove of value to you. It enables you to crystalize into ideas what were mere phantasms of the brain, to arrange your thoughts in their proper order, and to condense or expand details with a ready comprehension of the effect of such alterations upon the general proportions of the story. It makes your purposed work objective enough so that you can consider it with a coolness and impartiality which were impossible while it was still in embryo in your brain; and it often reveals the absurdity or impossibility of a plan which had seemed to you most happy. I believe that the novice can do no better than to put his every story to this practical test.

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