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Screenwriting Tips: The Outline (Part Two)

Last week, AuthorHouse began discussing screenwriting outlines—the second step (after creating a logline) in creating and self-publishing your script. While there are no hard-and-fast rules for a “correct” outline, we offered two popular options. You can read that post here, a good idea so you’ll understand today’s references.

Let’s see one of those outline options put into practice, using George Lucas’ sci-fi classic Star Wars as an example.

In the beginning (subheading “A” under Act 1), the Imperial Star Destroyer catches the rebel ship. The story ends with Luke destroying the Death Star, and returning to the rebel base a hero. This would be the final sub-heading under Act 3.

Whew! Two important clothespins done. Now let’s think about the linchpins that connect the scenes. What’s the inciting incident that takes us from act one into act two? Luke’s aunt and uncle being killed by stormtroopers (this would be the final subheading under Act 1). Act 2 would begin with Luke going to Mos Eisley with Ben Kenobi.

And the transition from Act 2 into Act 3? Probably when the main characters escape from the Death Star and flee to the rebel base, in preparation for the final battle scene.

With just those five or six scenes mapped out, you have a strong framework for constructing the rest of the story. You can now add as many subheadings (or even sub-subheadings) as you like, down to the level of detail that works for you.

The following diagram from illustrates a similar breakdown for The Matrix. Check out their site for a lot of great articles on screenwriting and filmmaking.

Remember, each scene in your story should have a purpose, and it’s okay to include this in your outline too. A scene that shows your character working late at the office might help establish that she’s a workaholic, or has no social life. If you’ve written a scene but don’t know what its purpose is, consider cutting it out before you waste time scripting it.

That’s all for this time. Next time we discuss screenwriting, we’ll focus on film treatments. In the meantime, have a great weekend and thanks for visiting Author’s Digest!

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