Outline Extravaganza

I’m going to try an experiment here, using Star Wars.

Theme: redemption. Redemption is always possible and always worthwhile because no matter how far you’ve fallen and how despicable you’ve become, there remains the option to renounce that life and become something worthwhile again – although that journey can be difficult and costly, or even fatal.

Setting: future-fantasy; another galaxy, another time, high-tech… elements of mysticism and magic.

Characters: Darth Vader is the main character, represents the fallen despicable person who must be redeemed; other characters: Luke, his son, is the redeemer; Obi-Wan, Yoda, act as guides for Luke; Han, Leia, Chewbacca, Wedge, Lando, various others, are Luke’s friends, allow for sub-plots and flesh out the setting; the Emperor, is the dark influence, the embodiment of what Vader must overcome.

Plot outline: Vader starts off as the innocent and idealistic Anakin Skywalker, born with the ability to wield enormous power. Over time he developes his power, but his own weaknesses make him susceptible to influence by the evil Emperor. After committing a series of increasingly evil acts, Skywalker becomes Darth Vader. Years pass and his son, Luke, hidden from Vader since birth, is also coming into similar power. Yoda and Obi-Wan guide Luke on a journey to overcome the influence of evil and redeem Vader. In the finale, Vader refuses to destroy his son, and turns on the Emperor, killing him. The battle is fatal to Vader as well, but he and Luke reconcile before Vader’s death.

Done. Well, not done, but outlined in rough. Of course, it would take hundreds of thousands of words to tell the whole story. And to flesh it out, there’s all sort of sub-plots: Han Solo, who has to overcome his selfishness to defeat his enemies and win the love of a princess; Lando, who starts off as a betrayer only to redeem himself and become a hero; the galactic conflict with the Empire and the heroic Rebel Alliance. It all adds up to a pretty good story.

So what was the point of this little experiment? What I’m hoping to do is to be able to use this as a guide for sculpting a reasonably worthwhile outline for a story of my own. The concept is that the initial theme is simple, but in order to tell the story, a rich setting is developed, memorable characters are introduced, and an engrossing plot is built.

Let’s try, with Party at Steve’s!

Theme: nihilism. People tend to place a lot of importance on their beliefs and outlooks on life, but ultimately we’re all just fragile creatures barely functioning above the most instinctive levels, and none of our opinions and beliefs has any real lasting meaning or importance.

Setting: modern-day; limited setting features Steve’s condo apartment and balcony and the alley below.

Characters: Steve is the main character, he represents the person with beliefs and ideals – he’s a yoga instructor and vegan for example – who will find that his beliefs are pretty trivial; Nancy is his girlfriend, believing much the same things, but she is a hollow person and her presence and dialogue show the emptiness behind clinging to subscription belief systems (note that she isn’t stupid or vapid, she simply doesn’t think for herself, rather she believes whatever popular trends tell her to believe); various party guests, these people each represent a snapshot of some moral take on the situation, some are horrified and sickened, some are apathetic, some actively cheer things on, some question others but do nothing themselves.

Plot outline: Steve is having a party at his condo. Before the party he is on his balcony watching a homeless man in the alley below. The party slowly starts as guests start to arrive. In the alley, a group of thugs has begun to harrass the homeless man. The party and the altercation in the alley both build in intensity, written in a loose, parallel structure, with guests observing and remarking on the incident in the alley in between events at the party. Although a wide range of reactions and opinions is given, no one thinks to intervene or call the police. Eventually, the homeless man is beaten nearly to death and is lit on fire. As the fire burns down and the man dies, Steve’s party also winds down and ends.

Grumble grumble. I’m still torn as to if there’s anything here worth writing. Maybe I’ll launch into a full outline and see if I can make something comprehensible out of this. Somehow I’m not sure if that theme is going to shine through the plot. I think I need a bunch of party guests so I can show different examples of “subscription morality” and examine a hypocritical reaction of these people as they profess one belief but act in a completely diffident manner to the occurrences.


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