Inspiration, Writing

Building a Frame, not a Cage

We are divided into one category of writers or the other; we are either pantsters or plotters. While I do not know for sure who coined these terms, the pantster writes by the seat of their pants while the plotter writes from an established plan. Etymology aside, I am a plotter and my plan usually takes the form of an outline.

During a writer’s conference, we were warned of the dangers of an outline. Some authors feel that an outline can limit the imagination of the writer or prevent the story from taking a direction that is actually better than originally intended. These concerns are valid but I feel the perspective is somewhat flawed: You have to build your outline from the outside looking in, not the inside looking out.

My outline starts with a solid foundation for a story: a beginning, a middle, and an end; or to put it another way – a norm, a change through conflict, and then a new norm. From that I build a frame which consists of a lot of note-taking, character building, world building, scene building, and timelines. Afterwards, I put in the support beams which can include the plotline, character dynamics and relationships, and backstory.  By the time I’m done, I feel that I have a pretty solid framework for a story.  I take a step back and looked at what I’ve built, modify as needed, and then start the writing process.

The difference is perspective. As long as I find myself on the outside of the outline – open to new ides and directions – what I have built is a frame upon which I can build upon that has no limits. However, if I had placed myself on the inside- closed off to new ideas and directions – what I built becomes a cage and by definition my story would be limited to the boundaries within.  The danger of outlines is not the structure or the purpose they serve, but the perspective of the writer when using the outline.

For my fellow plotters out there, build your frame not your cage.

Guest Post by Amos Dyer, learn more about him at AmosDyer.comAspiring Author find at


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