The Frustrations of Outlining “Khet”

Khet6Today, we’re going to talk about “Khet”. What is “Khet”? Khet is the name of the main character from the unnamed book I’m currently working on outlining/writing. Lacking a permanent name for the project, I usually refer to “Khet” as the project itself, not just the character, so I apologize ahead of time for any related confusion herein. I will try to differentiate “Khet” the project from Khet the character by the use of quotes.

“Khet” is an epic fantasy story with themes of romance and political intrigue. It is the story of a girl from a small stone-age village that rests alongside an ancient river, hidden deep within a high-walled valley. It is set in an age far into the Earth’s future and in an alternative timeline where ancient shape shifting beings (the Felnatherin) have lead an uprising against mankind, committing a genocide that spans centuries in retaliation for our defilement of the planet’s ecosystems. Humans have been stripped of all modern technology and subjugated to a slave-like rule for the better part of the last era, and because of this, have forgotten most of their history on this planet.

Because of the genocide of humankind and the Felnatherin’s hatred of them, the Felnatherin’s royal court (The Gilded Court as it is so named) has put in place certain rules of engagement when it comes to Felnatherin/Human relations. The biggest of these rules is that Felnatherin’s are not permitted to mate with Humans. This is something that has happened in the past, and mixing the bloodlines turned out to be a very complicated and disastrous situation—after all, it’s hard to subjugate an entire part of the populace when you can’t tell which side the members fall on.

Now, there’s some very convoluted and intricate mechanics to how the throne is passed down on the maternal side of the royal bloodline of Felnatherin, but the trouble begins when the current queen, Sapphira, decides she’s not ready to hand over her throne to a distant relative, Arielle, after discovering that she cannot produce a female heir of her own. She orders two bounty-hunter brothers (Leander and Solomon) to have their sister (Arielle) executed for treason after discovering that Arielle has fallen madly in love with a local human. Unable to defy the queen, the brothers war with one another, and in the end, Arielle is killed.

What ensues is a generational intrigue and battle for the throne as Arielle’s descendants pass down the royal bloodline from one half-breed descendant to another, all the way down to Khet. Khet is the spitting image of Arielle, and after she is discovered by Leander and Solomon, she steps up to take Arielle’s place. The queen made a major miscalculation in her plan to hand the throne over to her son—she kept Arielle’s treason a secret. Because no one outside the brothers know that Arielle was executed, when Khet shows up at court, masquerading as Arielle, she can’t do anything to out the girl without putting her own position as queen in danger. Having the person next in line for the throne murdered (effectively ending a centuries old tradition of handing the throne down through the maternal bloodline) isn’t something the Gilded Court will take lightly.

All chaos ensues as Khet, a half-breed, battles Sapphira and her son, Asher, for the Felnatherin throne. The stakes and consequences couldn’t be higher for everyone involved.

As you can probably tell, the plot to “Khet” is pretty complicated. There’s a lot of threads with the genetics/bloodlines, the motives of the characters, and the romances between them that get tangled and knotted throughout the story—hence the major amount of outlining that must be done to keep everything straight and plot-hole free. One of my biggest challenges in figuring out the outline so far have been problems of my own making.

khetnotebookoutlineWhen I started the outline for Khet, I began with a very brief one-page synopsis of the story. From there I mapped out the major plot points that had to happen, and after that, I sat down for a couple of weeks and wrote out an entire notebook of synopsis for the timeline and scenes that had to occur. Literally—an entire notebook. I ran out of ink in three pens.

The next step, which I am currently working on, is to make what I like to call a “detailed outline”. I’m basically taking my notebook-outline and re-transcribing it scene-for-scene into a Word document. Each scene is labeled with the setting, time, weather, characters involved, POV, and has a pretty good run-through of the order of events and conversations that must happen in each chapter. This has so far been the most frustrating and time-consuming task in the project, but also the most fun. The trouble is that often in my notebook outline, I knew the type of scenes I wanted to put in, but I was rather vague on what actually had to happen. There are sometimes scenes that run on for four or five pages, and then there are times (like the one I recently ran into) that involve notes as vague as:

POV: Solomon. Need a chapter here where Solomon receives correspondence from Leander telling him to visit. Be sure to add in a scene for the Queen/Asher somewhere around this time.

Yup. That’s it.

Running into these roadblocks has frustrated me to no end, but there’s no one to blame by myself. The problem is that these types of vague notes often lead me to major changes in the story as I am forced to sit down and figure out what is happening in depth. Because I didn’t take the time to figure out everything in the notebook outline, this often leads to major plot holes that must then be sealed up or worked around. The particular one I mentioned above lead to the realization that I’d need a prequel for Arielle at some point. I’d also have to change the timeline so that Sapphira has been plotting against Arielle for a number of years before she actually has her executed. Two chapters had to be added to the beginning of my story to seal up some plot holes, and another three or four have been added to a later point in time to smooth over the changes that those changes made.

I’m not even halfway through my notebook outline and I’m already up to Chapter 25 of “Khet”. I will soon be delving into writing out the entire trilogy (it may be even longer than that) just to be able to fit in all the scenes I want to add. “It’s complicated” is an understatement.

In all honesty, it’s also the most fun I’ve had writing in ages. I’ve fallen in love with “Khet” as a story, and as a character. There are so many different aspects and complications to the plot that are fascinating to try and work around. I feel like I’ve gotten a really good handle on the character’s motivations and personalities—to the point where they aren’t just characters to me anymore. They are real people, and they live in a real (albeit constructed) world. I care about their lives, and I’m trying to do my best to put that care into crafting their story. I’ve enjoyed watching “Khet” evolve over the past year from a vague idea into a complicated, lore-heavy exercise in world building, and I can’t wait to see the project turned into a tangible novel someday.

There are days where I just want to run around in circles, squealing my joy to random people about how much I love “Khet” and some new plot complication I’ve found a work-around for—but at the same time, I hesitate to post too much about the project on my blog. Given the chance, I’d probably talk about the project daily here on Author Unpublished…but I understand that I’m really the only person in the universe who cares. I don’t want to bore my readers, but at the same time, I know that I should be getting the word out about the book long before it’s published to get an audience built up for “Khet”. The question is, where do I draw the line? I’d love some feedback from anyone who’s so inclined to leave a comment: Are you interested in hearing more about Khet and my process of building up the story and the outlining process? Are spoilers a thing people care heavily about at this point? Should I just keep it to myself?

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3 thoughts on “The Frustrations of Outlining “Khet”

  1. Pingback: A Character Portrait: Leander | Author Unpublished

  2. “Khet” sounds like a fascinating story! You’ve already succeeded in one respect: I am eagerly anticipating the book’s debut. The process you are using sounds exactly like the process I used to create my “Children of Hathor” trilogy. In that case, I had to develop a history of human civilization in the galaxy, with all the political intrigue, biology, different cultures, different races, and so on, and then show how it inevitably led to the current crisis in the main character’s life. It was exhausting and full of potential ploy holes, but it was also one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.

    Interestingly, I then had to develop a detailed outline for the first two novels (now published), but that process did not work for the third book (now in process). I was up to about page 80 in the first draft, but it felt stilted, as though I were forcing the characters to do things they did not want to do. I finally gave up, threw those pages away, and started over, with the end of the novel/trilogy still firm but only a vague idea of how I was going to get there. Basically, I’m letting the characters write the story. At this point, they know it better than I do. 😉

    As to your question, for my part, I am always a bit skittish about revealing too much about a story I’m writing. These days of easy self-publication and everyone being a writer (it seems), I think it would be too easy for someone to take an idea and rush to press before me. Paranoid? Maybe, but the potential is certainly there, and a writer would have little recourse. Something to think about. It’s certainly okay to discuss the process, though, and I hope you do.

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    • Thanks so much for your input. I understand you completely when it comes to the outlining process. It’s so much work, and so extravagant the way the details all connect, but it’s such a blast figuring it all out. That moment when you find a solid answer to a plot problem is so rewarding, isn’t it? I’m really trying to knuckle down on “Khet” right now, so I’m hoping it won’t take me too long before the outline is done and I can move on to actually writing out the story. I’m eager to get it finished–it feels like it’s been sitting in my head for far too long at this point, and Khet’s story is one that needs to be told 🙂

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