The Outline

An outline is the main blueprint for your work. When you're writing a script you must develop an extensive and complete outline. Scriptwriters must create what is known as the Step Outline. It is a scene outline that describes step-by-step what happens in each scene in a couple of sentences. It shows the order of the scenes and the action that happens in each scene.

The Step Outline is essential to establish the direction of your script and the sequence of your scenes. It really creates the basis of your blueprint for screenwriting, which is vital when structuring your script. With your outline completed, it is an easy task to write your script. It is developing your outline that takes hard work.

If you aren't sure how to do an outline, start with writing a Synopsis first as described above. Then begin your outline by starting with the opening scene, then write down one or two sentences that describe the scene. Do this for every scene in a sequential order until you reach the climax or the final scene.

Every scene you include must relate to the spine or storyline of your script. The scenes in your outline describe the essence of your material and create the shape or form of your structure. No scene should be included in your structure unless it serves the overall purpose. Setting up your scenes in this manner, helps to develop a fast-moving, workable plot structure.

There are several ways to develop your Step Outline. Some people like to use 3 X 5 or 5 X 7 cards and write one or two sentences for each scene. Using cards gives you a lot of freedom because you can move them around and change them from one act to the other. Some writers even use different colored cards for each act so they can differentiate between the acts. For example, use blue cards for Act I, pink cards for Act II, and yellow cards for Act III.

You can also take large sheets of paper and divide them into three separate sections so you can see all the scenes at once. Some people use a large bulletin board to set up their scenes and others use the floor to lay out scenes. Whatever method you decide on is a matter of personal choice. The main purpose for your Step Outline is to get your script in the best structure, with each scene moving in a cause-and-effect fashion toward the climax.

I require all my students to create the Step Outline before they put a single word down in script format. This outline is really the most important aspect of story development for the screenwriter. Until your outline works in a tight, straight line, you won't have a blueprint for writing to follow and you won't have a script. Don't try short cuts. Developing an outline in the beginning will save you blood, sweat and tears, plus months of hard work in finding where you are in the story.

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