Guide: Sketching your story outline


The core

The core of your outline consists of the six most important scenes of the story:

  1. The opening (includes the hook)
  2. The opening of act II
  3. The closing of act II
  4. The opening of act III
  5. The closing of act III
  6. The climactic scene (the ending)

Plot outline

Who are the people?

  • Who are involved?
  • Who is in danger?

What is the problem?

  • Is there a threat/danger?
  • Is there a (lack of) opportunity?
  • Is there a mystery?
  • What is the character trying to obtain?

Are there lacks/ threats to…

  • physical well-being
  • social-wellbeing
  • self-worth
  • possession
  • freedom

The key points of the structure?

  • How does the main character get involved in the problem? (act 1)
  • Why can’t the main character ignore the problem? (act 1)
  • What makes it worse and worse until the situation is dire? (act 2)
  • What is the last attempt?(act 3)
  • What surprises are in each act?

The progression

  • What we thought was the problem, isn’t. Peel away extra layers.
  • Problem becomes complicated
  • Stakes go higher and wider in scope
  • Plans fall apart, surprises, wrong turns, changing nature of the problem
  • Specific immediate probably and significant threat
  • A dilemma

Character outline


  • What does each character want?
  • What is his motive?
  • How can you twist it?

How is it interesting?

  • larger-than-life
  • special power
  • special history
  • humor
  • oddness
  • purposeful
  • mysterious
  • dangerous

What are the points of conflict between characters?

  • antagonist vs protagonist
  • characters vs self (Flaws, handicaps)
  • within the same team

Setting outline

Look for

  • Danger / threats
  • conflicts/ limitations to characters
  • mysterious, peculiar, surprises


  • geography and climate
  • government and religion
  • food
  • pleasure and entertainment
  • shelter
  • technology
  • stories / myths, fairytale
  • culture and social values
  • history