When is an Outline Not an Outline?

When it is a novel. And when is a novel not a novel? When it is an outline.

We were all taught how to outline. You started with roman numerals, and subheadings were capital letters and the next subheading...

Enough already, outlining is about telling a story. For me it is writing fiction, though it used to be about documentation. I need to tell a story, not build a structure. I write a chapter heading, I don't care for chapter numbers, but you do what makes it work for you. Then you tell a story.

Jonas Watcher: The Case of the Jade Dragon.


An Incident at Union Station

Jonas sees a Chinese couple attacked outside the Train. He Grabs hi colt and exits his cabin for the corridor. He meets the conductor in the corridor who reminds him he needs to be back on the train in half an hour. He exits the train. No one to be seen.

Jason searches and finds the couple and three attackers. (Be There)

The last item, "Be There" in parenthesis is  from the "Writers Master Class" from James Paterson. It is a note to me to remind me that I need to bring the reader into Jason's mind, there is going to be a lot of shit going on here and I need to convey it to the reader. That and TBD are shortcuts to me so I can get the damn story told. I'm not writing it yet, I am telling it.   

Jason deals with the attackers (Be There) and escorts the Chinese couple, a father and a daughter back to the train. He is invited to lunch, the father is very interested in Jonas' occupation. The daughter is concerned about the father's interest.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Back in his office Jason gets back to business, Betty is not at planned get away because her husband's vacation was canceled due to recent gang activity in San Francisco. (It is the 1930s) . There is a bit of detail information about his PI business to quickly bring the reader up to date and demonstrate Jonas' relationships with his receptionist and her husband.

Jonas gives Betty the afternoon off and catches up on business. Toward the evening two oriental men insist Jonas come with them. He refuses and an altercation occurs (Be There). He binds up the two men and prepares to call the police. There is a knock at the door and he cautiously answers. It is the woman from the day before. Her cousins were supposed to extend an invitation to Jonas for dinner as a thank you and to let her Great Uncle meet him...oops.

All Roads Lead To China Town

Jonas arrives to find he is an early guest to a function for which he is inappropriately attired. A room has been arranged for him, and clothes have been set out for him. While he is preparing to get dressed, a woman opens his door and looks in on him.

This next part is actually a piece of the story that goes here. The outline usually won't carry such segments, but sometimes I have to break the story telling and do a little real writing.

     I had just gotten undressed. I was reaching for a shirt laid out on the bed when the door opened. Xifeng stuck her head in.
     “May I help you?” I ask.
     “I just wanted to see what a dragon looks like,” she said.
     While I wasn't naked, I was in my underwear and I really wasn't interested in putting on a show.
     “How about you wait until I come downstairs. You'll get to see me all decked out.”
     “No,” she replied. “Downstairs you will be dressed as a civilized man among others who are dressed as civilized men. I can wait to see you as you really are.”
     She smiled shyly and quietly closed the door.


Jonas comes downstairs, unarmed in more ways than one and is escorted into a parlor with about forty people, all dressed in formal attire. He recognizes the Uncle and his daughter, the two cousins and the woman who looked in on him. No matter how hard he tries to find out why he is there, the conversations always shift to another subject. A gong sounds, dinner is served.

A Princess, an Emperor, Two Thieves and a Dragon

After dinner the men and women separate, the granddaughter maneuvers Jonas into a smaller room away from the others. At first, Jonas suspects this is for an amorous occasion, but then The Great Uncle enters the room and the granddaughter disappears. The Great Uncle explains why he wished to see Jonas when he heard of the events of the day before. He is the head of a powerful family in China Town, and there has been a feud with one other powerful family for over 200 hundred years. They have agreed to a truce and a solution for peace which include an arranged marriage. Jonas gets the history and some details of why he was sent for. The bride is in St. Louis and must be escorted to San Francisco for the wedding. She needs a bodyguard and a chaperone. They want Jonas to be the bodyguard. The Great Uncle's Granddaughter will be the chaperone. She has been present during the discussion to the objections of other members of the family. (Be There) there is a lot of dynamics and characters that Jonas must meet. This is an overnight meeting and Jonas is a guest in the house. He begins to learn more about the family then they want him to know about. Conflict between Jonas and the Granddaughter. (names really important in this story). TBD

There Might Be Dragons

Later in his room, Jonas is visited by two women, the first is a handmaiden who offers herself to Jonas. He reluctantly refuses and uses all his gentlemanly charm to try and get the girl to leave his room. The granddaughter reappears and she helps Jason get rid of the girl. She gives him more information on the family business and why the marriage must take place. The Great Uncle has slowly been going legit and the other family and his have an odd symbiotic relationship in the underworld. They rely on each other in the illegal part of business and if the great uncle does not stay the current course the other family may go under. He is proposing a way to grow and reinforce the legit end while getting rid of the illegal end. There are factions in both families that do not want this to happen.

Then There are the mean Streets of San Francisco

I am breaking here this should give you a feel how I outline, though it is probably arrogant of me to think you might be interested, but if it helps anyone, then it was worth my putting this in.

When I finish the outline, then I will print it out and use it to write the novel. In the outline I will have characters names, I will have details about characters that will never get into the book but by having them at my fingertips I will be able to tell a better story. I am currently working on chapter building  in the Writers Master Class, and although I have already been able to do this, there have been a number items I have been able to glean from the course and James Patterson that have already improved my writing and my writing process.

There is more to come, the next section is on Writing Suspense, I can hardly wait, unfortunately, it will be a little longer before you get to hear,...  read what I have to write.












Popular posts from this blog

Is James Patterson's Master Class Worth the Price of Admission?

Does Offering a Pre-Order of an eBook Work Towards More Sales?

Re-Pricing Books