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Plotting and Outlining Techniques for Fantasy Novelists


two kids reading a story with pictures, plotting and outlining techniques for fantasy novelists

As a fantasy writer, you have the freedom to create your own world and characters, but with that freedom comes the challenge of crafting a compelling story that will keep readers engaged. One of the most important steps in the writing process is outlining and plotting your story. In this blog post, we'll introduce you to some outlining and plotting techniques that can help you draft a successful fantasy story.


It’s important to start any novel by doing a bit of homework. Consider your audience and who your readers will be. This will help you tailor your story to their interests and preferences. Because fantasy novels are generally more plot-driven than character-driven, give your characters an exciting plot with some problems to solve, as well as good doses of tension, conflict, and meaning. Convey the importance of what is at stake, and also what solving the central conflict will mean to the characters.


Because your readers will be drawn into the story by the character's actions, it is important that they reflect your reader's experiences and interests. It also helps to research the fantasy fiction market to get a sense of what readers are looking for and what has already been done. This can help you create a unique and compelling story that stands out from the crowd.


Craft Your Fantasy Story

The next step will be to start crafting your story. This includes developing a plot and creating an outline. There are traditional plot structures often used in fantasy that can help guide your writing. The traditional seven specific plot structures include:


kids in capes, hero's journey

The Hero’s Journey

This technique is based on the work of Joseph Campbell and is a narrative template that incorporates elements of myth and archetype. It focuses on the protagonist's transformation and includes additional stages that focus on the character's internal journey.


The Three-Act Structure

This technique provides a clear structure for organizing plot events, developing characters, and pacing the narrative. It is based on the idea that every story has a beginning, middle, and end.


Save the Cat Plot Structure

This technique is a popular screenwriting formula that focuses on creating a compelling and sympathetic protagonist. It involves creating a likable character who is faced with a problem that they must solve.


Five-Point Plot Arc

This technique involves breaking down the story into five key points: the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. It is a simple and effective way to structure a story.


Seven Basic Plots

This technique is based on the idea that there are only seven basic plots in all of literature. These include overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy, and rebirth.


Plotting with the Twelve Archetypes

This technique involves using archetypes to guide your outlining process. By identifying the archetypes that best fit your story, you can create a more detailed and cohesive outline.


A Great Framework for Plotting a Fantasy Novel

This technique involves breaking down the story into ten key steps, including the inciting incident, the call to adventure, the refusal of the call, the mentor, the first threshold, tests and allies, the approach, the ordeal, the reward, and the return. It is a simple and effective way to structure a fantasy novel.



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Choosing an Outline

Fantasy novels can be so layered and character-rich that it is very helpful to start the project with an outline in place. An outline helps you stay on track, avoiding problems like plot holes and vanishing characters. Here are some popular outlining and plotting techniques for fantasy novelists:


The Novel Writing Roadmap

This technique provides a comprehensive framework for plotting your fantasy story. It covers all aspects of the novel, including plot, themes, characters, and settings. The Novel Writing Roadmap is ideal for writers who prefer a structured and in-depth approach to outlining. It involves plotting the start and end of the story, as well as each of the main characters, but nothing more.


Plot Templates or Story Skeletons

Using pre-designed plot templates or story skeletons can guide your outlining process. These templates offer a structure for your story, helping you organize key plot points and story elements. This technique is suitable for writers who prefer a structured approach but also desire flexibility in their storytelling.


Question Arcs

Question arcs involve asking a series of questions about your story, characters, and plot. By answering these questions, you can develop a more detailed and cohesive outline for your fantasy novel. Question arcs are beneficial for writers who prefer a more flexible and less detailed approach to outlining.


The Snowflake Method

This technique is a step-by-step approach to outlining a novel. It starts with a simple idea and gradually expands into a more detailed outline, allowing you to develop your story and characters in a structured manner. The Snowflake Method is ideal for writers who prefer a structured approach but also value flexibility in their storytelling.


The Three C's Outline

This technique is a simplified outlining method that focuses on three key elements: character, conflict, and conclusion. It provides a flexible and less detailed approach to outlining, allowing writers to develop their stories organically.


Outlining/Plotting vs. Discovery Writing/Pantsing

This is a broader distinction between two approaches to writing. Outlining/plotting involves planning and structuring your story in advance, while discovery writing/pantsing involves writing spontaneously and letting the story unfold as you go. It's important to note that these two approaches are not mutually exclusive, and many writers use a combination of both.


At One Small Step Writing Services, we offer developmental editing services that can help you through the outlining and plotting stage of the writing process. Our experienced editors can provide feedback on your story structure, character development, and plot, helping you create a compelling and well-structured story that will keep readers engaged from beginning to end. We can also help you identify your target audience and tailor your story to their interests and preferences. With our help, you can create a successful fantasy story that will captivate readers and leave them wanting more.


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