Skeleton of the Outline

Whether you like using a low-tech notepad and pen or word-processing software, lay out the skeleton of the outline as you find it in this chapter of the tutorial to help visualize the process. As the development of the script progresses, fill in each section along the way. Starting with drafting the outline is the best way to prevent skipping any steps. The notebooks, file cabinets, and computer hard drives of writers everywhere are filled with incomplete story ideas that did not progress into scripts. This is both good news and bad news. It is good news in that writers have outlines with holes they could not fill, so they moved on to something else, realizing that there were questions they could not answer, so why waste time writing what would turn into an incomplete script?

Other writers foolishly pressed on, even though they were unable to fill in one or more parts of the outline, putting in hours of work trying to write a screenplay, only to fall short. There is nothing wrong with starting an outline, discovering that there are holes, and setting it aside. You can put the outline away and return to it at a later date when inspiration arrives. But by doing the ground work first, you will have only invested time in outlining, as opposed to spending countless hours of fruitless screenwriting simply to come up empty and incomplete.

Below is what the outline structure should look like:


The Protagonist:

The Antagonist:

The Protagonist’s Three Goals:

Act One Goal:

Act Two Goal:

Act Three Goal:

The Antagonist’s Goal:


Treatment Outline

Act One

Sequence One (pages 1-12)

Critical Decision

Sequence Two (pages 13-25)

Plot Point One – Critical Decision

Act Two

Sequence Three (pages 26-38)

Critical Decision

Sequence Four (pages 39-51)

Midpoint – Critical Decision

Sequence Five (pages 52-64)

Critical Decision

Sequence Six (pages 65-77)

Plot Point Two – Critical Decision

Act Three

Sequence Seven (pages 78-90)

Critical Decision

Sequence Eight (pages 91-103)


And yes, you want to put in the page counts and critical decisions as a reminder so that once the writing process starts, you will know and hit your targets. It is near to impossible to hit your targets if you do not know your targets.