In case you thought that our own Larry Brody was the only one in showbiz who’s crushing on outlines, here’s a very helpful guide to outlining from our friends at Script Reader Pro:
by Script Reader Pro
Writing a script outline is probably the most important preparatory step you can take as a writer.
It can save you from having to go back and fix things in a screenplay that could’ve been fixed much earlier—fundamental things like a basic problem with Act 2. Or a missing character flaw. Or a faulty three-way triangle of conflict between protagonist and antagonist and stakes character.
In this post we’re going to show you how to write a screenplay outline and figure out all your character motivations and plot points before writing the script.
In other words, how to figure out your story first and then transpose it into screenplay form. All of which will potentially save yourself months of rewrites and frustration. So let’s get to it.
Why Writing a Script Outline Is So Important
A movie is essentially a story. The blueprint for that story is a script. But the blueprint for that script is a movie outline. In other words, a breakdown of the story beats in prose that will make up the script.
Hence, the process of writing a script for most professional writers goes something like this:
Story Idea > Notes > Script Outline > Script
(Some writers also like to add a screenplay treatment in there before or after the outline.)
There’s nowhere for the story to hide in a film outline. Without all the distractions of dialogue and formatting, a movie outline either interests the reader, or it doesn’t.
If you read it aloud to someone, they should be able to understand it as a fully realized, comprehensible story. And if your story doesn’t interest people in prose form, it’s unlikely to in a screenplay.
But What About Tarantino? He Doesn’t Bother Writing a Script Outline
Some of you may be asking, why do some famous writers such as Quentin Tarantino or the Coen brothers not bother writing a movie script outline…?