How to Write an Outline

Write outline imageDo write an outline, first.  It isn’t as much fun as free-flow writing, but it saves you a lot of time.

Whether you’re writing a screenplay, play, TV pilot or fiction, the same principles apply.

To begin, understand this.  Something has to happen in your story.  Something has to happen.

I call things-that-happen events.  However, everything that happens is not an event.  Boy crosses street—that is something that happens.  But it isn’t important enough to qualify as a dramatic event.

Boy crosses street and gets hit by car.  This is a dramatic Event.

In a well-written screenplay, an Event happens in every scene.  In a play, every five pages.  In a novel, every chapter.

To be an Event, the thing-that-happens must do at least one of these tasks:

1)     Force your protagonist to make a decision.

2)   Force the action forward.

3)    Raise the stakes.

4)   Change the playing field.

Start to absorb these guidelines.  Now put them into practice.  Decide upon three major Events, first.

Kick-Off Event happens about ¼ of the way into your story.  In a 100-page screenplay, by p. 25.  This is an Event that happens to your protagonist, which starts her on her journey.  Dorothy gets hit by a tornado.

Midpoint Event happens halfway through your story.  Page 50.  This Event raises the stakes exponentially for your protagonist.  Dorothy’s very life is threatened by the Wicked Witch.

Aha! Event happens ¾ of the way through your story.  Page 75-80.  Your protagonist has a deep, transforming revelation.  Glinda appears to Dorothy, now ready to realize she was always home if she wanted to be.

Kick-Off.  Midpoint.  Aha!

You have your story scaffold.  Essential structure in place.  Beautiful.

Next, fill in the Events that happen between the three major Events.

Practice with The Wizard of Oz.  What happens to Dorothy? What does Dorothy do?   Dorothy goes to the Emerald City.  Dorothy talks to the Wizard.  Dorothy is captured by the Wicked Witch.  Dorothy is sentenced to death.  Dorothy escapes.

Write your Events in terms of action.  They are not thoughts, memories, ideas, conversation.  They are active.

Think it through.  What happens in your story? Write down the Events in order of how they happen.

Now you have your outline. 

For questions about this schooling, or personal guidance with your outline or story, contact Diana.

Diana@dianaamsterdam.com   347-907-1737

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