First, start with your Beat Sheet. If you are familiar with Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat, then you know what a Beat Sheet is. If not, let me explain. A Beat Sheet is a condensed outline version of
your screenplay with a few caveats. Generally, there are roughly 15 beats that mark certain story points and progressions. They range from the Opening Scene/Image to The Set-Up of the protagonist in his/her world. It operates off the idea that there is a particular structure most movies have.

Second, use index cards to write out each scene. On a two-hour movie, or 120-page screenplay, the scenes per movie is somewhere between 40 and 60, give or take. Each scene can range between two to three pages. Write the action and characters of each scene onto an index card.
E.g. – INT/APARTMENT: John confronts Jill about her infidelity.

Third, use the index cards to elaborate on each scene. Ideally you would be writing a paragraph or two in this portion.
E.g. – John comes home early to surprise Jill with takeout and a bottle of her favorite wine. She is in the bedroom on the phone. He eavesdrops and hears her confess her undying love to her lover. John barges into the room, she hangs up quickly, and he confronts her.

Forth, describe any actions and revelations in the scenes. A scene should always reveal something new about the characters or move the story forward.
E.g. – John eavesdrops and shows he already distrusts Jill.
We can show John going through great pains in the scene to sneak into the apartment and tiptoe up to the bedroom door.

Fifth, insert dialog as you move forward. If dialogue strikes you, write it down. Even if it’s just one character’s dialogue, you can always come back later to add or take away. It’s important to get the dialogue on paper, no matter how bad you think it is.

Lastly, there are no hard and fast rules to creating an outline. In the end you should do what works for you. Do what comes easiest. Some scripts you may use all the above steps, while other scripts you may use only a few of the tools. As you become more proficient you will develop your own special tools for outlining your screenplays.

As always be inspired, be encouraged, and be collaborative.

Saki Bomb

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