A Tool for Tunnellers

Some authors build bridges and some authors dig tunnels. In other words, some writers like to get a structure in place, an outline, before they launch into a story: these are the bridge builders. And other writers just burrow right into the tale.

Local writer Lois Peterson (loispeterson.blog.com) is a tunneller and she  has come up with a tool that she calls the Reverse Outlining Chart to help other tunnellers analyze their work. Tunnellers can also use the three-act template, which I talk about a lot, to analyze their drafts, of course. But there are some excellent details in Lois’s model, so I thought I’d pass it along. (She encourages sharing.)

Lois presents seven headings across the top of a sheet of paper and creates columns beneath them.


In the first column, you list the specific section you’re reviewing—the scene, chapter, or whatever.


In the second column, you describe the main plot points as action. This is a great idea; it will help you to identify passive characters and listless scenes.


Lois refers to backstory as BS. 🙂 She notes: “If I find BS introduced after the first act, I try to move it up.”


In this column, you note what characters are introduced and how characters are developing through action. So this column allows you to track character development.


This is an interesting one. Lois writes: “I use characters objects and other details to build story and character. This column helps to track how they’ve been use through the story.”


Here, you identify whether whether the ending of a scene resolves a plot point, opens up a question about te story, or creates a dramatic cliff-hanger. As Lois notes, “Reworking endings often helps to improve drama and pacing.” Right on.


The final column provides a place where you can jot down any ideas that have come up as you have conducted your review.


It’s groovy, isn’t it?

If you want to know more, Lois is going to be doing a presentation about the Reverse Outlining Chart at the Western Canada Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference on May 5, 2012. That will take place at the Holiday Inn Express at Metrotown.



About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up—free!—

YEAH, THIS IS ANNOYING. But my theatre newsletter is fun!

Sign up and get curated international coverage + local reviews every Thursday!