The Outline: Don’t Start Without It

Once you have your basic key development by developing your logline.  The next step is to create your outline. The outline is an essential tool for creating the story for your script.  You can start with integrating the Three Act Structure of the story and the Eight Sequences of the film.  You will end up with the turning points of your story.

You will end up with a skeletal frame for your story:


Sequence 1 – Introduce Main Character/Status Quo

Plot Point #1: Inciting Incident/Point of Attack

Sequence 2 – Set Predicament/Establish Main Tension

Plot Point #2: The Lock In


Sequence 3 – First Obstacle/Raise the Stakes

Sequence 4 – Higher Obstacle

Plot Point #3: First Culmination

Sequence 5 – Subplot/Rising Action

Sequence 6 – Highest obstacle

Plot Point #4: Main Culmination


Sequence 7 – New Tension

Plot Point #5: Twist

Sequence 8 – Resolution


If you can fill in a scene/plot point for each line you will have a basic outline of the story.

I suggest taking it one step further to find Blake Snyder’s 15 Beats.  Once again, fill in a plot point/scene for each of the 15 beats. At this point you should have a solid understanding of how the story progresses.  If you find yourself with a blank line, it is time to brainstorm ways to develop your story points.

Ways the outline helps you as a screenwriter:

  1. As you write your story you are always aiming toward not only the next plot point but the end.
  2. The story has levels that intertwine as you write your scenes because you know where you are going.
  3. If you find yourself in the position of writing two separate scripts at the same time the outline facilitates going back and forth between the two.
  4. You can simplify your pitch by using the basic structure.  This way you won’t go off on a tangent when presenting your concept.
  5. When it comes to rewriting you know where to make the changes.  You may end up making changes to the outline .  The original outline serves as your structure for making the changes integral to the entire story.

It may seem like a lot of work at the beginning but will save you from going off track, writing scenes that don’t fit the story line or do not move the story forward.  If your aim is to be a professional screenwriter, you will find the time you take to construct your outline will save time on each script that you write.

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