How To Write a Step Outline for your Script

Step outlines are the basis of a screenplay for most movies. This includes how you want the scene to be done, along with notes on the movement of the actor, background music and the like. It is essentially a written movie and is a great help to all members of the movie crew – the director, cinematographer, actors and everyone else. When you are tasked to write a step outline for a screenplay project, you can find some very useful tips listed below. Just follow the instructions and the list of materials that you will need.

  • What you need: Pen and paper or your favorite word processing application; some ideas as inspiration; a quiet place to concentrate; and music to help you block out the noise (optional).
  • Practice from an existing television show. You can practice making a step outline script from a 30 minute episode of your favorite TV show. You can try catching their dialogue and then injecting their actions, cuing the background music and the entrance of other characters as you write the script. You will need to review your work a couple of times over to see if you got the documentation right. When you are comfortable writing in this manner, that is when you start writing your own piece.
  • Outlining the major scenes and main characters. You can start by listing the main actions in your particular story. If you have a very long story then you can cut it into segments so that you will not be overwhelmed with the length of what you have to do. Once you have gotten the first segment, mark the beginning, the middle section and the end.
  • Expanding each segment and putting in the details. When you have sectioned your story, build out the beginning part and start writing the dialog from one character to another. Note the setting of where they are and how they are interacting with the props in the scene. If there is anything else that you need to cue, then insert these as well.
  • Re-editing your scenes. After drafting the initial dialog and interaction of the characters and items in the set, review what you have written and see if it makes sense. It is best to look at it with a critical eye to see if the actions enhance the scene or not. Do not be afraid to make bigger changes if you think the scene calls for it. Be realistic, too, in terms of the set requirements since you may not have access to all things when you are shooting the movie or TV episode.

When you are done writing the step outline for a particular segment of the story, you can proceed to expanding the other sections, as well. Remember that you can ask for help for other writers in the project so that you will not be overwhelmed with what you have to write. You just need to agree on the overall tone and theme of the scripts so that it will not be obvious that different people wrote each part.


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