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How to Write a Script Outline

Writing your script is a big challenge, but before you even begin the process of formulating all of those important details, you’re going to need to organize your ideas. Learning how to write a script outline is a big task for an aspiring filmmaker, and it’s an absolute must for organization purposes. If you’re unsure where to begin or what is involved in the process of writing a script outline, this is the guide for you!

While there is no definitive step-by-step rule or way of writing a script outline. There are some tried and true processes that can be used to guide your thought process. And organize the important details of your script.

The purpose of learning how to write a script outline is to structure your character’s journey. In such a way that your audience will connect, engage, and enjoy the story without getting overwhelmed or lost.

To help you learn how to write a script outline? We’ve put together the following list of important tips and tricks.

Plan Characters First

Your character and the plot trajectory that the character is expected to follow will form the basis for how you write a script outline for your story.

This means you’ve got to plan your characters first. And that you must have an idea of what your character wants. How they will proceed. And what will happen in the story.

Before you outline your script, consider the journey and how your character’s emotions will change as the story progresses. All of this will help you to define your act structure.

Organize Script into Acts

The act structure of your script is a big part of learning how to write a script outline. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. There are several tried and true formats that work and will continue to work for films that you create.

For example, the three-act structure is incredibly common and useful in outlining your script. If you’re not familiar with the three-act structure, consider learning about it and following it.

It will certainly help you to flesh out each of the important elements of your script. And the scenes that will be required to create a story that follows the typical trajectory of a tried and true film classic.

Write Scenes for Your Outline

Once you’ve got your three act structure in place, you can begin to write out the scenes for your script outline. Each scene should have a purpose, don’t overthink it!

This is your map of how the story will play out. Provide descriptions, characters, and important dialogue that you know must be included in the story. In order for it to progress in the desired manner. 

You can be as detailed as you want here. But the goal is to get all of the important information outlined in a logical, linear or nonlinear fashion.

Additionally

Once you’ve learned how to write a script outline that includes your key character arcs, story details, and the three act structure as well as your scenes. You’ll be on your way to perfecting the process.

To learn more about writing script outlines, consider reading several script outlines and the associated scripts that go along with them so that you have a better idea of what to include and what not to include. Keep practicing – you’ll get the hang of it!

Need a visual template to go off of? The folks over at Celtx have made a helpful video series for building a foundation for your script: