B is for … Blocking

April 2, 2012

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?


A to Z Challenge

28 People reacted on this

    1. I admire people who can write with an outline. I’m trying to learn, because I know it would help me. Thanks, Erik!

  1. I’m more of a pantser to be honest. Picture Books I do not really outline! Chapter Books, I outline my characters and the problem, then one or two sentences for what I think each chapter will be about.

    1. You’re definitely doing more outlining for your Chapter Books than I used to do for a whole novel — and then I’d finish the first draft and think “where’s the plot?” It’s a learning curve for me.

  2. I have never had good luck plotting novel. It is something I struggle with constantly and am trying to learn. This concept of blocking is very interesting. i think it might work better than anything else I’ve tried – it seems to make sense on a gut level. I do well with examples, though, so when you’re done with A To Z, I will look forward to a post detailing exact how to do this 🙂

    1. In June, I’m doing all kinds of writing-related posts, and delving into blocking in more detail will fit in perfectly. I’m just starting a Chapter Book project, and will block it and see where it leads. Stay tuned!

    2. Such great information being shared here. I love the idea of blocking. I look forward to your sharing an example of this technique. I think I may have been blocking all year and did not know it (tee hee). I’m eager for June and all the information you’ll be sharing. Great post!

    1. I will look for you, Annalisa! I’m going to do some work at developing this idea of Blocking a novel and see what happens!

  3. When I’m writing anything, I tend to start by putting ideas (in the form of a word to two) in a little circle, then connecting ideas in what seems to be a logical pattern. If I were writing a whole story of book, I would do the same. It looks like a spider web with a lot of little circles, but it works. Done in pencil, it’s easily reorganized.

  4. I have found myself outlining my story. I didn’t want to give up everything at the very beginning that wouldn’t be fun so I did write an outline for it Thanks for sharing your thoughts

    1. Thanks, Ros! I’ll wait impatiently for G — although I’m sure I’ll enjoy the other posts as well. I have ancestors from Tavistock, Devon — surname Andrews — so when I saw the counties you focus on, I was particularly interested!

  5. i love how you are relating different terms to writing.
    i block out a few sentences per big chapter then as i start writing and more definite scenes form i break down more chapters…

  6. I fluctuate on the outline issue. Sometimes, I am better than others. I’ve been reading a writing book on outline, but keep getting interrupted. That might be a theme with my outline. I keep getting interrupted.

  7. Like Stacy, I fluctuate. Sometimes I find it easy to mindmap what I’m thinking — a kind of outline. Other times something striikes me and I go with the flow, but generally have some idea of the want in mind. It just unfolds.

    My blog is different, I know what I plan to review months in advance. But, it doesn’t keep me from adding something spontaneously.

    1. I have tried mind-mapping, and it doesn’t seem to work well for me. I guess I have an unmappable mind! 😉

      I’m very good at organizing and planning my blog. Hmmm… one would think the two processes, blogging and writing, could inform each other, wouldn’t you?

  8. I just write away, but this blocking thing sounds very interesting. Hmm. I am with Susanna. I think we need a blog post teaching us. You in, Beth?? 🙂

  9. This is good advice. I usually outline using the seven point system. It is simple which makes it easy for me to understand. There are youtube videos on it if you search “Dan Wells Story Structure”.

Comments are closed.