The Uses Of The Stepsheet

There are no formal rules for making up a stepsheet. Some writers put in a great amount of detail; others make theirs sketchy and thin. It is up to the author. The purpose of the stepsheet is to keep events in a progressive cause-and-effect order, A-B-C-D-E-F, and so on, and to chart the growth and development of the characters.

Can you decide to change the stepsheet later on—for instance, when you are three-quarters through the first draft? What if you get to the scene where the patrol is pinned down and you think it would be better if Andy got wounded? Okay, fine. But being wounded has an effect on the rest of the story. You will have to modify the subsequent steps. What effect does being wounded have on his getting the Silver Star? If he's disfigured or crippled, what will that do to his confidence and newfound pride? Before making any changes, think through the consequences. Then if you decide it would make a better story, go right ahead and make the change. The stepsheet is a guide, not a straitjacket.

Complications, the events or steps of your story, do not spring to life by themselves. They are brought to life by the inertia of the events that preceded them in time. This is the logic of story writing, and it is this logic that gives your story its organic unity.

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