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Portal Blog

Writing Prompts: The Snowflake Method (Part 3)

Part 1

Part 2

A snowflake resting beneath a pen, surrounded by a number of other writing implements.

Portal magazine continues to accept submissions for our annual issue, which will be released in April (fiction/non-fiction/poetry/script, VIU students only, no submission fee, deadline November 30th). We’re looking for entries of up to 2000 words. This series of posts is here to get the wheels turning using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method.

The steps we covered in Part 2 should leave you with a 4-page in-depth summary of your story. The Snowflake Method was designed by a novelist, so the remaining steps may not fight a short story perfectly. Feel free to experiment as you work.

Let’s begin by returning to your character sheets. Take each character description and expand it into a full-length character chart, featuring birth dates, personal history, motivation, goals, and a detailed explanation of how they will change by the end of the story. If your characters begin demanding changes to the plot, POV, or tone, listen to them. As Ingermanson says in his article, “great fiction is character-driven.”

Time to bring out one of the writer’s most important tools: the spreadsheet. Take your 4 page summary and make a list of every scene in your story. Use one column of the spreadsheet to describe the POV character and another column to describe what happens in the scene. If you want, you could add more columns to describe setting, overall tone, or symbolism. Don’t be afraid to go into detail. If a spreadsheet can contain a novel’s worth of scenes, it can definitely contain everything required to outline a short story.

The next step is optional and may not really apply to a short story, but I’ll present it for completeness. Take what you’ve got in your spreadsheet and create a multi-paragraph outline of each scene. Now is the time to jot down dialogue and ask yourself about conflict. Every chunk of the story needs to have something driving it, after all. When you’re done, you should have your final in-depth synopsis of the story. If you were working on a particularly short story or a particularly in-depth outline, you may even finish the project at this stage, in which case – congratulations!

For those who didn’t finish here or chose to skip the final outline, there’s only one step left: write. Get that first draft down on a word processor, on paper, on old receipts and sticky notes if you have to. You know what the story is about. All that’s left is to get the words flowing.

These are steps seven to ten of Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. We hope they came in handy! Keep the Snowflake Method in mind as you work on submissions for Portal. The Nov 30th deadline is getting closer.

– Nicola Kapron, Web Editor

The words 'What's Your Story' printed in white on a lined blue background.

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