Writing Prompts: The Snowflake Method (Part 2)

Portal magazine is still accepting submissions for both our national non-fiction writing contest called Portent ($500 prize, $25 entry fee, deadline November 1st) and our annual issue out 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 in both categories. This series of posts is here to get the wheels turning using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method.

After the steps we covered in part 1, you should have a good idea of what your story is about and how it’s going to be structured. Now, take your summary paragraph and expand each sentence into a paragraph of its own. All but the last should end on a note of tension, if not outright disaster. The final paragraph should cover the ending. You should end up with a one-to-two page skeleton for your story. If you’re working on a particularly short piece, you may end up finishing it at this step, in which case – congratulations!

Let’s return to the characters. Last time, you gave each major character a one-sentence summary. Flesh that out into a full page for each and give an additional half-page summary to every other character. These summaries should be a full retelling of the story’s events from each character point of view. Ingermanson refers to these as ‘character synopses.’ Don’t be afraid to include seemingly extraneous detail in your synopses – knowing your characters well can only make them more lifelike, even if most of that information never makes it into the story proper. Feel free to make revisions to your outline as you learn more about the cast.

At this point, you should have a solid core to your story and several character threads and subplots you could follow. A short story generally doesn’t have more than one or two subplots, so you may want to decide which ones you’re going to focus on at this point. Once you have an idea of which plot threads are going to take the stage, it’s time to repeat your trick with the summary and expand each paragraph of your one-to-two page outline into its own page. You should end up with a four page summary of your story. This is the time to be making strategic decisions – if there’s anything that needs fixing or readjusting, you want to do it now.

These are steps four to six of Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. Stay tuned for future installments and make sure to mark your calendars for the Portent and Portal submission deadlines next month.

– Nicola Kapron, Web Editor