Somehow I ended up using “Double Rainbow” as a structural device, don’t ask me how that happened

02 Jun

Probably somewhere out there in the Greater Internet some tremendously intelligent (and possibly charming) person has already written extensively about “writer types”. But I couldn’t find anything like that and so I’m going to talk about it a little, at least as far as I see myself.


I’m not talking about novelist, poet, journalist or that kind of categorisation. I’m talking specifically about writers of fiction, and the ways in which they work. I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days, and though I’m forced to swallow my humility in order to say it I consider myself a ‘craftsman’. I care about the mechanics, I’m aware of the rules of writing so when I bend or break them it’s always with reason, I don’t just write and hope it all comes together, I construct a story and I’m aware of what I’m doing at every point.


And if Stephen King told you to jump off a bridge would you do that too? Huh? HUH? Would ya? Punk?


I think there’s a misconception about outliners, this image of a strictly organised person who labels their pencils and who does not deviate from the precisely ordered and perfect outline they’ve created. Maybe some people work like that, but part of the reason I outline so much is that I’m exactly not like that. You see? Look at that word usage, ‘exactly not like that’, that’s terrible! What kind of descriptor would you apply to a person like me? I’ll give you one for free, ‘befuddled’. Not in the sense of ‘in a drunken stupor’ but rather ‘perplexed by many conflicting situations or statements’ and ‘confused and vague’. So I need to outline to sort out all these ideas I have, to work them into a readable state, and so for me my outlines work like a badly written, tell-don’t-show, rough stream of consciousness thing. Here’s a sample from what I’m working on right now:


So, Sorrow arrives in Blade–confrontation with Julia. Argument. Some stuff comes out–Sorrow’s actions in Moor, Julia’s conversation with Gran. Then a fight breaks out nearby, in a tavern? Escalates quickly. No no, make it personal, mercenary group. They know Sorrow–ah, yes, the message thing, that ties in nicely, good. They’re separated–Sorrow tells Julia to stick by the carriage while she fights off anyone coming near. After the fight, Julia’s gone? Or SORROW is the one who’s gone? Little subversion maybe. Julia looks around and Sorrow’s gone. That’s more active, that’s definitely better. Yes yes yes good. Or, wait, no fight at all? Sorrow surrenders? Yes, perfect, she DOESN’T fight to protect Julia, she protects her by giving in. Set-up for later, ties in with earlier. Nice. Does that work with ‘protection’? Easy road to Seven Rise from there. Safest option.


I just get excited, is all.


You can see how I work things out as I go along–sometimes scenes flow more smoothly than this, some scenes I have as little as “Talise meets up with Felony again somehow, they’re pleased to see each other, on to the next (might not even need this maybe?)”, some scenes I have as much as full dialogue and descriptions, depending on how into the scene I get. This happens especially near the end of the outline, where everything comes together and I know more precisely what has to happen.


Yes, pretty much. I tend to just charge through to get to the stuff I actually have outlined in the first draft, then spend a lot of time working on my beginnings in the editing passes.


So I guess I’m back to that same old wishy-washy conclusion, “Do whatever works for you”. I think this is an important part of any writer’s journey, figuring out just how you’re going to turn your ideas into books. Even now, with every book I write, I’m still refining and expanding my process. So do what works, try new things, and keep on writing.


Posted by on June 2, 2011 in Of Writing


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10 responses to “Somehow I ended up using “Double Rainbow” as a structural device, don’t ask me how that happened

  1. George

    June 2, 2011 at 12:49

    Can’t help noticing you never mentioned exactly what a Double Rainbow is…

    • Ben White

      June 2, 2011 at 13:20

      Well, if you have to ask… 🙂

      • George

        June 2, 2011 at 13:24

        I’m assuming a double plot-arc, providing two resolutions within the story?

      • Ben White

        June 2, 2011 at 13:30

        You’re giving me FAR too much credit, I’m afraid 🙂

  2. George

    June 2, 2011 at 13:34

    I am now completely boggled. No clue.

    • Ben White

      June 2, 2011 at 13:35

      Although now, because of your comments, from now on I am definitely referring to story arcs as ‘rainbows’. In my latest I have a quadruple rainbow!

  3. Katy

    June 2, 2011 at 14:44

    Wow! Double Rainbow! Great post.

  4. Ania Ahlborn

    June 2, 2011 at 18:45

    While I’m what you’d call hyper-organized in day-to-day life, I sound like I very well may be the complete opposite of you writing-wise. 😉

    As far as outlines go, I outline. But while your outline has some meat to it, mine is like… a ghost of what will be. My entire outline, from the opening sequence of a 60-80k novel, to the end scene, is rarely longer than two pages long… and even then it’s

    Act One:
    -John Doe arrives at the place
    -Jane Doe enters the same place

    And on we go for a page or two.

    You say you think about every little thing you’re doing while you’re writing. That sounds exhausting to me. When I write, I just write. Sometimes I don’t even think (though that’s not true, sometimes I think ‘holy shit, what’s happening right now?’), I let the story develop organically.

    An analogy I love for writing:
    When you’re driving in the dark, all you can see is what’s in front of your headlights, but that doesn’t mean you won’t reach your destination.

    That’s the way I write. I have my ghost of an outline. I know the points I have to hit. And then I just… go.

    Nice post!

    • Ben White

      June 2, 2011 at 22:10

      “When you’re driving in the dark, all you can see is what’s in front of your headlights, but that doesn’t mean you won’t reach your destination.”

      Although a map certainly helps 🙂

      Then again, I’m reminded of Douglas Adams’ ‘Zen Navigation’, “I may not have ended up where I intended to go, but I have arrived where I needed to be”.

      Ah, and actually I probably wasn’t clear; I think about structure when I’m outlining, but barely at all when I’m actually writing. I outline, I think, I plan, then when I write, like you, I just write–referring to the outline as I go, of course, but I often deviate from it. In the case of my latest novel halfway through I realised one of the characters was going to go off and do her own thing, because it didn’t make sense–either from her perspective or from a ‘story’ point of view–for her to go with the other characters. And so I half-outlined, half-pantsed that part of the book. I got to a certain point, though, and thought “If I don’t plan out the rest of this I’m just going to get myself into a total mess” so I went back and outlined the rest of it.


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