Chapter 134 – Story-planning Guide

I’m moving next month, which means I suddenly want everything I see online. I’m also editing a book and that got me thinking how similar apartments are to stories, so here’s a 4-Point Story-planning Guide with Apartment Metaphors!

LivingRoom_by_MathieuNicolet

Picture by Mathieu Nicolet

1. Layout = Outline
Apartments and stories both have certain sections that form the complete picture. Whenever you walk into someone’s apartment, you assume there’s a kitchen and a bathroom, for example. Likewise when you pick up a book, you already have expectations, usually depending on the genre. If you want to entertain 20 dinner guests while cooking, you need a kitchen that fits more than two people. If you want to write a chilling thriller, you need suspense for more than five pages.

Whenever you’re figuring out an outline, ask yourself:
1. What am I hoping to accomplish? (big family house vs. home for two/high fantasy vs. realistic sci-fi)
2. How can I best accomplish it? (perhaps you need several POVs/bathrooms)

2. Rooms = Locations
Like all the different rooms in an apartment, the locations in your story must serve a purpose. They’re the backdrop for everything that happens. Your kitchen can be amazing and beautiful and functional, but very few people still want to sleep on a kitchen floor. Locations should match the needs of the story and it’s even better if your location manages to tell the reader something about the world.

To nail down your locations, consider these:
1. Does this place feel logical? (a modern kitchen without electricity is doomed to fail, and so is a medieval castle with modern plumbing)
2. Does this place support what I’m trying to accomplish? (directing a naive princess to a run-down poorhouse helps her grow more than attending another fancy ball)

3. Furniture = Characters
Outlines and locations can’t work without characters, and without furniture your apartment is less than livable. Characters guide the story but you need to make sure they are the right fit. No reason to add a giant couch to a tiny studio or to add a character who really doesn’t do anything for the plot.

Whenever you’re unsure, ask yourself:
1. Is there really enough room for this? (10 chapters with 10 important characters is pushing it)
2. Could I use something else instead? (a low bench can in a pinch be used as a coffee table and the newest minor character could be better off merged with another)
3. What makes this stand out? (thin characters are the worst but you should always give them something they can be known for, whether it’s bravery or a really bad mouth)

4. Decoration = Voice
Decoration includes all the little touches you add to make your apartment look and feel like your home. My style leans towards anything blue or dragon, but since my boyfriend is more on the minimalist red side, we need to compromise to make the place work for both of us. Compromising with your story doesn’t mean forgetting your voice or mimicking someone else, but if you’re writing 15th century romance, the voice and tone of the story has to be tremendously different from contemporary sci-fi.

To get you started, consider these:
1. Is this useful or just pretty? (simply think of adverbs)
2. Does this convey the feeling I want? (even if you love bright green, would you want it for the walls of your bedroom?)
3. Have I seen the same exact thing before? (searching for inspiration = good, copying someone else = bad)


And that’s the end of this little guide!

Did any of these make sense to you? If yes, what was the most helpful?

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