In the theatre, Blocking refers to the process of working out the moves the actors will make on the stage, the precise places they will stand, the actions they will perform. The director, in blocking a play, works not only from the stage directions already indicated in the script, but considers the emotional impact the actor’s movements and gestures need to make, the balance on the stage, the logistics of movement and a myriad other things. There is a good, basic explanation of blocking on How To Do Things.

That’s the theatre. What about writing?

In the past, I used to write in what I called a “patchwork quilt” method. I wrote disparate scenes, then tried to stitch them together into a cohesive whole. More often than not, I ended up with a plotless crazy quilt of stitched-together scenes. I’ve done better when writing from beginning to end, not always knowing where I will end up, but that has its difficulties as well.

I have struggled to write an outline. For a detail person like myself, it’s surprising that I don’t like to put down the nitty-gritty details of an outline.

In preparing this blogpost, however, I’ve started to think of a writing outline in terms of blocking a play, and that seems to fit the way my mind works. Perhaps it’s just semantics, but I think it will make a difference for me to view the whole idea (as if it were the playscript) look at where I want to get to in the different scenes, what emotions I want to evoke, what story I want to tell — and then block out the actions and gestures, mixed with dialogue, that will get me there.

How do you outline?


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