Step 2) Take another hour and expand that sentence to a full paragraph describing the story setup, major disasters, and ending of the novel. This is the analog of the second stage of the snowflake. I like to structure a story as “three disasters plus an ending”. Each of the disasters takes a quarter of the book to develop and the ending takes the final quarter. I don’t know if this is the ideal structure, it’s just my personal taste.
You can also use this paragraph in your proposal. Ideally, your paragraph will have about five sentences. One sentence to give me the backdrop and story setup. Then one sentence each for your three disasters. Then one more sentence to tell the ending. If this sounds suspiciously like back-cover copy, it’s because . . . that’s what it is and that’s where it’s going to appear someday.
Ok, I’ll give it a shot and then take the hour to consider. (And let me just say that it is incredibly hard to put up first thoughts without editing them, but I want to show how the process works for me – or doesn’t.)
“In the Empire, there are those who purchase orphan children in order to train them to be killers. One of these children, a boy named Glimmer, first shows his talent for the work when he is forced to kill a fellow student as part of his training. As training progresses and more orphans die, Glimmer forms a secret friendship with another student, named Last Girl, and the two of them try to escape the school. When they are caught and he is offered a choice, Glimmer chooses Last Girl to die instead of himself, and wracked by guilt, he decides to take revenge on his teacher. When Glimmer kills his teacher, he ‘graduates’ early, and enters into the Emperor’s service; his teacher is replaced with a woman just as cruel as the last.”
Not wedded to the character names yet – I have images of them but not solid names yet. The naming convention I want to use is not to have names in a particular language, but to just have the translations of the names. So, for example, as Douglas, my name with this convention might be Dark River, because if someone who spoke Gaelic heard the name Douglas, they’d hear “Black River”. For names outside the point-of-view culture, I’ll use the usual strange-sounding words you find in fantasy stories all the time.
Anyway, now for an hour, and then some reflection.
What I have doesn’t fit the Step 2 instructions exactly – there aren’t technically three disasters, for example, but there are, in my opinion, three climaxes – Glimmer’s first kill (of a child, as a child – pretty awful stuff), Glimmer and Last Girl’s escape attempt which ends with a cliffhanger (if the story is long enough for chapters or other breaks), and Glimmer killing his teacher. The denouement is that Glimmer survives, is scarred forever, becomes part of the system that destroyed much of his life, and nothing about that system changes. Good times, eh? 🙂
But, we get the…glimmer…of what kind of character he will be, what his struggles will be as he develops, and something of the brutal underbelly of the Empire, and the kind of evil required to maintain the Emperor’s power.
In the snowflake method, you’re encouraged to go back and revise these steps, so I’ll probably do that, but for now, I’m ok with the paragraph.