Fractals fascinate me. No matter how much you zoom in, there’s always more things to see and discover. It never ends.
I recently had the thought that the same goes for writing stories. In my personal case, it applies to the outline I make for the story. No matter how detailed I make it there’s always more to discover.
It’s happened that I’ve tried to write stories without an outline. It usually doesn’t end very well for either me or the story. I get hung up on some detail, start exploring it, and then get bogged down into whatever train of thought the detail lead me on to. Once I realise what I’ve done, it’s usually too late to salvage the story, and if I still want to tell the story I started on I might just as well start over again.
It’s fun, but it’s not very effective.
Instead I draw up an outline and I make lists of what is supposed to happen in each scene. I set up checkpoints that I want my story to pass. Then I start over on that and add more checkpoints between the original ones, and then I do it again and add even more detail.
In this way, I maintain control of the story. I write shorter pieces where I know what’s going to happen and where it will end.
It’s all very controlled, but even then there’s room for exploration and discovery. The space left for exploration is smaller though, and because of this, smaller things are explored. I don’t come up with things that would change the entire plot. But I find little details that may or may not be important further down the line.
If nothing else, they add a little depth and a little life to the characters or the world.
This is why outlining a story is a little bit like zooming in on a fractal. No matter how much you zoom in, there’s always room to explore the spaces in between.