iUniverse’s Tips for Screenwriting – Part 3

iUniverse is delighted to continue our discussion of screenwriting. Today we will address how to create an outline for your film.

Thus far, we have been speaking of loglines and how to create a really stimulating title (parts I and II). Next in the sequence is the job of creating an outline, which will serve as the “skeleton” of your film.

An outline for a film follows the traditional form, as with a research paper. While you can divide it as you wish, the main things to focus on are clarity as to what happens in each section, as well as transitions.

One helpful figure to know is that most films have between fifty and sixty scenes. Top screenwriters tend to take a few pages of paper, put numbers 1 to 60, and write down what happens in each scene.

screenwriting iUniverse understands that this methodology will probably be rather arduous for novice screenwriters. So let’s start with a lower number of divisions. Naturally, your film has a beginning, an end, and a middle. Let’s call them Act I, Act II, and Act III.

Choose a separate page of paper for each one (on real paper or computer) and start writing what happens in each. Don’t worry about sequence so much at this point; the main aim is to get all of your ideas written so you can organize them later.

Think of Star Wars Episode IV as a good example. Act I is on Tatooine, Act II is aboard the Death Star, and Act III is the rebels’ air assault on the Death Star (i.e. the Battle of Yavin).

Once you have your ideas down, start thinking about how each Act begins and ends. Since you already know what will happen, start giving a chronology to each Act.

At this stage, it is likely that you will discover that some parts are missing or blurred. This is common, even among veteran screenwriters. Keep filling in as much as you can, and the missing or confused scenes will start to take shape.

For now, iUniverse’s only advice is to put as many details on paper as possible. Then sit back and organize them. You are making progress!

What other films have a clear three-act structure?

Make sure to check out the iUniverse site for more advice and blogs, as well as iUniverse Facebook and iUniverse Twitter.

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