Arts & Entertainment

Writing Your Story Outline

The Duffer Brothers

Lesson time 27:38 min

Outlining is a sacred step for Matt and Ross. In this lesson, explore the brothers’ two-step outlining process—and see how they used that process to build the "Stranger Things" pilot. Plus, learn how they approach opening hooks and story beats.

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Topics include: Your Outline Is Your Blueprint • The Two-Stage Outlining Process • Start With Your Opening Hook • Scaffolding Outline Main Storylines • Scaffolding Outline Breaking Down The Story Beats • Scaffolding Outline Diving Into Hopper's Storyline In The Pilot • Scaffolding Outline Weaving Storylines Together • Scaffolding Outline Estimating The Length Of Your Script • Assignment Write Your Scaffolding Outline


[MUSIC PLAYING] - So now that you've got your big idea, it's time to move into the outline stage. I know you're going to have this feeling, this impulse, of, like-- you're very excited about your idea, right? And you're going to want to jump immediately into script. We would really highly encourage you to resist that impulse, because you're going to run into problems. That's how you get lost in the woods. That's how you lose sight of where you are. You can lose years of your life to this process. You can have a script that you just can never finish and you end up throwing away because you get frustrated. It's worth taking the time to plan and to figure out exactly where you're going while you're still zoomed out, before you dive in. Before you really zoom in. So that's why we're big, big proponents of the outline. [MUSIC PLAYING] - The way we see an outline is that it's very much-- it's like a bird's eye view of your script. Sometimes we look at a script as, like, you're building this house, right? And so looking at your last assignment, you have sort of a one page foundation. This is what you're going to build your house on. It's like the concrete on the ground, and you're going to build up from there. So you don't just start throwing up beams, or walls, or painting things, or putting in doors. What you're going to do, is you're going to do a blueprint. You're going to do a drawing. And that's really the next step. And so that's what this outline is going to be for. It's going to let you see the big picture before you actually start spending all the time in actual construction. - And I think, again, you're going to have this-- you're going to want to even rush through this stage. I think you're going to have-- the instinct is going to be, let me get through this outline stage as fast as possible so I can get to the script, so I can get to that beautiful house. Again, we think you should resist that. You should spend longer on the outline stage than on the script stage. At least we do. We spend probably twice as long on the outline stage as we do on the script stage. Because if the outline is good and strong, the script is going to write itself very, very quickly. - Hitchcock would come to his first day on set of a new movie. He would say, all right, the picture's over. Now I just have to go and put it on film. And why he's saying that is because he's done the legwork prior to getting there. He's got his storyboards. He knows the lenses he's going to use. He knows when he's going to cut. He's cast his actors. Every major choice has been made. Now the filming of the picture is almost a formality. And we're going to take that and apply it to the script stage, where the outline is where you put in all the legwork and you make the choices. The actual writing of the script is more just, you're making it pretty. You're putting the final touches on. But it is like Hitchcock with his films. It's more of a formal...

About the Instructor

Before they turned our world upside down with "Stranger Things," Matt and Ross Duffer honed their scare tactics on Wayward Pines and their debut thriller, Hidden. Now, the acclaimed showrunners reveal the dark science of creating a monster hit. Craft gripping story arcs, conjure unforgettable characters—like Eleven or Jim Hopper—and turn your raw idea into a pitch for the next big thing to cross over from the other side.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

The Duffer Brothers

Matt and Ross Duffer—the "Stranger Things" masterminds—teach you how they plotted the series from beginning to end, and how you can bring your own idea to life.

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