How to Critique – Outlines

Yesterday I talked about how to critique brainstorming sessions, today I wanted to go over outlines.

Outlines and brainstorming are very similar in that they are concepts and ideas. Nothing is really implemented quite yet, and as such, they can be a bit tricky to critique properly.

As I’ve said before, any idea can be a masterpiece if brought to life by a skilled artist.

The benefit of outlines over brainstorming, however, is that you are starting to add structure your writing, and you can focus more on the structure of the ideas, and the layout rather than the ideas themselves.

So what makes a good outline?

Well, this could make for an entire month’s worth of blog posts, and probably will someday, but the basic outline goes like this:

  • Character is introduced in their normal world.
  • Character’s worldview is shattered by a surprising discovery.
  • Character makes a choice to investigate/follow/enter what they’ve discovered.
  • Character tries and fails a few times, not really knowing what is going on.
  • Character discovers something that helps them understand better.
  • Character tries and fails more, but this time in the correct direction.
  • Character learns or discovers the final truth (usually about themselves) that allows them to finally overcome the threat.
  • Character takes care of the threat, learns a valuable lesson, then returns to their old life wiser and more powerful.

Now, this is incredibly simplified, but you can see that most stories have a flow to them. Character does stuff, then they learn something, make a decision, then try again till they learn something new.

By taking this framework and applying it to the outline that you are critiquing, you can hopefully see the flaws in the outline.

Maybe the character never learns something about themselves or overcomes some innate flaw near the end? If not, bring that up with the writer.

Maybe there is no time spent at the beginning to properly introduce your character and the ordinary world to the reader. That’s something else you can pony out.

That’s about it for today, next blog post will be about alpha critiques.

Till tomorrow,

Tom

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