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How to write part 8: Meat on them’ Bones.

Updated: Feb 29

Put some meat on your bones

To this point we have created scenes, characters, plots, outlines, and flow for our tale. The time has come to start adding the details. It is also time to start to consider how far down the architectural writing hole you want to go. For many people this has been structured enough or already far too structured. That is not a problem! Some people make better authors when they write completely spontaneously, and if that is right for you, go for it. As I have always said, people should experiment with multiple forms of writing to learn what works for them.                

If you were to stop the architectural writing at this phase, having only what we have constructed up to now you are already fairly structured in your writing. If you keep going you will join me in the super structured land. Here is what I mean: This is a time to stop and reflect that I have not been hyper specific about what “A scene,” means.

Example from earlier entries in our example levitation world included:

-          A rich or powerful levitation family has a child who has passed puberty and is not demonstrating any skill yet. There is a conversation circling on infidelity, loss of familial power, and passing over the child to the next born because it is what is best for the family.

If above is the “scene,” you have written that is perfectly fine. It forms the skeleton. However, if below is the scene you have written, you are in a very different place.

-          Father is standing near crib which is holding his second born son. He is gripping the sides white knuckled. Behind him Mother enters.

They begin to discuss his eldest son, and his prowess at fencing in the academy today. She waxes poetic about his achievement for several minutes to no response as the grip gets tighter. He then slams the crib, waking the child, startling her.

The baby begins to fuss, but is not yet crying.

He stalks away to the window, and responds to her finally about how his eldest still can’t get his toes off the ground for more than a hop. He’d be better off passing the house to the infant before he can even read for all the power they will lose.

She will counter that he could set up the succession through their daughters.

He scoffs and states how that would be losing the family line and inheritance as soon as she becomes some other house’s princess. Or perhaps that is what she always wanted?

She protests.

He reminds her of the flirtations with a different house’s prince some years before. Maybe his recessive line is showing. She is now holding the colicky infant, but frees an arm to smack him.




One of these is a notion. The other is the start of a summary, or blow by blow example of every action and primary dialogue point that happens in the story. This is what is meant by putting meat on the bones. Adding meat to the skeleton is to perform the following for every scene you have in the order they will happen on the page:

-          Outline key actions need to drive the plot forward / change the status quo. Remember, every scene must change something or it has no purpose.

-          Outline actions which will be used to set the mood.

o   In this example we have anger demonstrated by the grip. We have sexism, or at least cultural preference set by the treatment of his daughters. We have his inconsiderate nature yelling and waking his youngest son.

-          Outline key dialogue points which need to be made.

o   In this example the elder son is capable from an effort and skill as told by his mother. We establish the size of the family. We establish the worldbuilding of who is supposed to be successor and how wealth is passed. We establish he accuses his wife of cheating on him long before. She denies it.

-          Outline the setting.

o   This is shown as a private argument, without servants or others around. Perhaps in their own bedroom or an adjoining room. Identify enough reminders that when you write the scene you avoid white room syndrome.

-          Consider working in a character trait, physical or otherwise, to keep establishing or embellishing characters.

-          Consider at least one world building element in each scene.

-          Consider outlining your dialogue if dialogue comes slowly to you. Note good quips and one-liners you might like to use. Outline the basic back and forth of the dialogue.

Think of the outline as something on the order of a 200-to-300-word sketch of the scene minimum. Depending on the length of your book, how many scenes it has and how long each scene is, you could very well generate 10,000 words or more doing this.

What is this? Besides being a meaty skeleton to write from, it is also a very easy way to read your entire book in one sitting. And you should. Keep this object when you are done, no matter what. Never erase it. One of the time consuming and hard parts of rewriting a novel comes from how much needs to be ripped up and rebuilt whole chapters at a time. If you become very familiar with this outline version you can more easily move pieces, change pieces, even whole personalities that may not work for you through the entire thread in less than a few days with tweaks here and there to the shorter version.

The real use of the meat is to let you make substantial changes without substantial investment.

Get meaty. Go create a draft of your novel in micro!

Next up, fleshing it out… The last microstructure.

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Rated 4 out of 5 stars.

Great suggestion to keep the outline to one sitting view of your book.

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