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A script outline helps writers stay focused, organized, and avoid problems throughout the screenwriting process.

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Writing a screenplay requires discipline and organization. A screenwriter must keep track of plot points, character arcs, and overall story structure as they write. Whether you're a professional screenwriter or are writing a screenplay for the first time, an outline is an organizational tool that can keep you focused throughout the writing process.

What Is a Script Outline? 5 Elements of a Screenplay Outline

In screenwriting, a script outline or screenplay outline is a scene-by-scene breakdown of your movie. The outline helps you turn your premise and logline into a full-fledged story. A thorough script outline may include:

  • Plot points and story beats: Typical plot points and story beats include an inciting incident, a rising action, and a climax.
  • Scene descriptions: Broad strokes descriptions of action within a single scene.
  • Character arcs: Emotional arcs for key figures in your story, particularly your main character.
  • Dialogue snippets: Key lines of dialogue to employ when the actual scriptwriting begins.
  • Act breaks: Most half-hour television shows use a three-act structure, hourlong shows favor a five-act structure, and movies tend to fall within a three-act structure.
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Why Write a Script Outline?

A screenplay outline keeps you focused and organized and helps you foresee problems before they come up in the writing process. This allows you to ensure that your story progresses logically and prepares you to write efficiently when the time comes to get your screenplay on paper.

A good outline can also help you keep track of a character's growth. Audiences respond to dynamic characters who change over the course of a story. By creating a scene-by-scene outline of your script, you can keep tabs on multiple characters and make sure they undergo the growth they deserve.

How to Write a Script Outline in 6 Steps

Screenwriting software generally provides a step-by-step outlining tool to help scriptwriters through the story development process. As you create your outline, there are several things to keep in mind to make sure you're getting the most out of the outlining process.