Do You Wanna Build a Snowflake?

A long time ago, when I was first entertaining the idea of being a writer, I came across The Snowflake Method. At the time I didn’t pay it that much attention. It isn’t something I read about on other blogs or find on Pinterest, but I’ve recently revisited it as a storytelling tool because I’m intrigued to try it and maybe solve some of my plotting related issues.

So what is The Snowflake Method? It’s a metaphor created and used by a guy called Randy Ingermanson. You can check out his website here. Randy started his career with a PhD in Theoretical Physics and working as a scientist… until he decided to write novels. It took him ten years to get it right and earn his first publishing deal. Little wonder then that his writing method is analytical and measured in its approach. Also little wonder that it’s based on the concept of a fractal – a mathematical repeating pattern.

In The Snowflake Method the idea is to start small with a single sentence and then build and expand in ever increasing detail. This is the visual representation that Randy uses.

With each iteration the pattern develops. The same can be true of your story.

You can read the full breakdown of the method here, but for now here’s a brief run through the steps. Think of it as a ten step programme for writers.

  1. Write a single sentence summary. This is the big picture. Keep it short, don’t use names and cover your main conflict or plot point.
  2. Turn your single sentence into a single paragraph. Aim for five sentences: the setup and then three disasters plus an ending.
  3. By now you will have your tag line and an overview of your whole story. Next you need to sketch your characters. For each of your key characters write a page. Include name, one sentence summary of your character’s story, their motivation, their goal, the character’s conflict, what they will learn or how they’ll change, and a one paragraph summary.
  4. Go back to your paragraph summary and expand each sentence into its own paragraph.
  5. Go back to your character pages. Write a full page description for each major character and a half page for any secondary character.
  6. You’ll now have the basis of your main story and also for the supporting stories. Go back to your work from step 4 and again expand each paragraph into a more detailed full page. This should turn your one page synopsis into about four pages.
  7. Time to go back to your characters. Take your character work so far and expand so that you know everything you can about each of your main characters.
  8. From your four page summary make a list of scenes that includes key details and a summary of what needs to happen.
  9. (Optional) From your list write a page or two for each scene. You can print this out and make written notes on it as you create your first draft.
  10. Now you have your road map, write your first draft.

Bonus point: at any time in the process go back and revise what you’ve already done. Your characters will make demands on your plot and it’s better to get into it during a 50 page outline than a 50,000 word first draft.

It’s a simple approach that appeals to the data analyst in me. I’m a problem solver by nature so this appeals to me from the point of view of solving the problems before I write them in full. I’m excited to try it on a couple of ideas that have been buzzing my brain for a long time but have never quite made it on to the page.

Have you tried this method before? Did it work for you? Once again, if you’re interested in knowing more head over to Randy Ingermanson’s website here.


One thought on “Do You Wanna Build a Snowflake?

  1. Pingback: Character Basics: The Interview – KJ Middleton

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