Outlining, sizzle reel style

Today I conducted a solo walking/dining/shopping/relaxing expedition to a nearby metropolis, and reaped big rewards! Like, more than just a Monsters Crash the Pajama Party DVD with two pairs of 3-D glasses; I now have a somewhat rough but complete outline for the next Nightbird story. I’m ready to reveal a bit about the story: the working title is Ministering Angels, and it takes place in a hospital where not everyone is adhering to the rule of “First do no harm.” The research is proving a bit difficult, and more will be needed before I’m ready to write the biggest scenes, but forward progress is definitely happening.

I tried something different in the outlining process this time around, writing most of it in what I call “sizzle reel” format. For those not familiar with the practice, a “sizzle reel” is a tool that television and movie producers use to pitch their proposed projects, a short presentation showing their vision for the production. The idea is to show a potential investor or executive “see, if you give me backing to make this show, here’s the cool stuff you can expect me to do with it!”

My “sizzle reel” outline format is halfway between that model and a “Previously, on TV Series!” recap. Like the recap, I’m trying to cover every important point that’s needed to understand how things go together; like the sizzle reel, I’m trying to pack it as densely as possible with awesome. Elmore Leonard has said “I try to leave out the parts that people skip”; I’m trying to put my sizzle reel together entirely from the parts that people don’t skip.

Of course, I completed the outline today by abandoning the “bullet points” format (each bullet point being a key action or line of dialogue) and covering the last missing sections with a couple of summary paragraphs. But that’s okay; this is, after all, only a tool for my own use. Those summary paragraphs are where I can’t go into further detail until my research tells me what details are most appropriate; writing them down makes it clearer for me what answers I need to be looking for in my research.

This is the first project on which I’ve tried the sizzle reel outline; I’m looking forward to trying it on others, though I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t produce quite the same results for works that aren’t action-oriented, as Nightbird is. Those are problems for another day, though. My problem for tonight: how do you wear regular glasses and 3-D glasses together?

Note: My answers to Kindertrauma’s “It’s a Horror to Know You!” questionnaire went up today! Check it out here and if you have any interest in things horrific, do yourself a favor and browse the rest of the site; both the thoughtful analysis and the humor are top-flight.

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About jdcburnhil

Author of "Nightbird Descends," available from Smashwords and other fine e-book retailers.
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