Writing an outline for a screenplay is the first step to creating an interesting movie. An outline for a screenplay is the skeleton which provides structure for your script. Movie production companies and studio Executives will also often ask for a screenplay outline before you will be asked to commence a film writing project.
A screenplay outline is a step-by-step breakdown of the entire story of your screenplay. It also represents a scene-to-scene breakdown of the characters, their actions and dialogues, events and places. Your outline can be as comprehensive and detailed as you want it to be. However, it should contain the major and important element of the story for each scene.
Writing an outline for your screenplay will help you to keep focused on the goal of the story and for each scene. It will also make editing your story easier.
How then are you to write a screenplay outline that will create an interesting movie?
1 List your basic plot trajectory
Before you start writing a screenplay, you should know where you are going from the beginning of the journey. Even if you do not have a clear picture, you should have an idea of what the script is all about: the settings, protagonist, problem, antagonist, the goal and the actions. The elements of the characters, the character arc, the desire of your protagonist should also be determined. All of these must be predetermined so that you can lay a solid foundation for your screenplay.
2. Create a Logline
Now, you have a general idea about how your story is but you don’t know how to mould the ideas into a script. The first thing to do is to write a sentence that briefly explains the components of your story with a precise expression. This sentence is called a logline. A logline is a brief summary of the screenplay usually in one or two sentences. It provides a synopsis to the story in order to stimulate interest.
An example of a logline is: A spirited farm boy joins a rebellion to save a princess from a sinister imperial enforcer – and the galaxy from a planet-destroying weapon. – Star Wars: A New Hope
3. Develop your character
The next thing to do is to define the personalities of your characters, the emotions you want your character to exhibit, and how they change throughout the screenplay, that is the character arc. You should also set the goals that you want the characters to achieve, this is their purpose. Avoid working on a one dimensional and uninteresting character.
4. Create a structure for your outline
Create a structure for the outline of your screenplay by giving it a three-act structure: The beginning, the middle and the end. Averagely, your screenplay will be about a hundred pages. Divide the number of pages into three, which form the beginning, the middle and the ending acts. The first act introduces your characters, the settings and the features. The middle act depicts how your characters encounter the problem so that the incident turns into a crisis. The third act explains how the character took Actions that resulted in either a victory or defeat.
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5. Outline the Scenes for your screenplay.
Now that you have given your screenplay a structure, transform the actions of your character into scenes. Create an in-depth version of your outline using a conventional manuscript style.
Explain the settings for each scene, actions and dialogues. You are to determine the number of scenes that makes up an act as your story requires. Include the acts, scene numbers and scene headings to make your screenplay outline organized.
However, make sure that your scenes have a cause-and-effect relationship with one another so that your audience can relate to them.
You should avoid using the word ‘and then’ in your scene descriptions, because it can disrupt the flow of cause-and-effect. Instead use words such as ‘but’, ‘therefore’, and ‘so’.
6. Write your script again and again
Now, it’s time to get to work.
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