Useful if this is how you think, though often I don’t see the outline until after the draft is written, because after awhile one just internalize this kind of stuff from all the media one ingests. Point is, use if helpful, ignore if not.

This is EXACTLY how many shows on television plot their episodes, though it’s usually through a five act timeline:

1) Introduction to the characters and the mission/adventure.

2) Mission begins. Protagonist establishes cursory allies and foes. Some sort of complication to the plot at the end of Act II.

3) Protagonist and friends deal with complication of the plot. Gears up for another go at the goal, but falls short in some way, usually related to protagonist’s personal journey.

4) Critical information needed for climax is discovered. Protagonist angsts, then rallies.

5) The lead up to and the final resolution. 

Because studios sometimes require a 6 act break for extra advertising, the last coda is usually related to season arc/character development. But generally speaking, this is the structure a lot of screenwriters use.

Three things that are true:

  1. Anything you don’t create deliberately you create inadvertently. 
  2. Things you create inadvertently tend to be the first idea your brain reaches for. 
  3. Your first idea is almost never your best idea, because it will inevitably be influenced by the last thing you read or saw, or will clichéd and obvious. That’s how your brain gets warmed up to a problem; it reviews common solutions first.

One of my biggest revelations was that writing is both the act of constructing beautiful sentences AS WELL AS the act of being imaginative, of thinking up characters and story and knitting them together in a clever way. We are so blinded by the romance of the act of sentence construction that we forget that the imaginative part should get our time and attention too. You can call it “planning” or “outlining” or whatever. I call it dreaming. 

Make time for your imagination to produce the best story it can.


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