One of the first pieces of advice I was given when I began writing scripts was to first write an outline. I ignored that bullshit… and immediately regretted it. Since then I’ve written at least a skeleton outline of what happens in Act I, II, and III of all of my projects so I know the direction I want to go. From there it’s figuring out what my characters want and how they get it which brings them to the next plot point in the story.
I’ve learned that this also helps to create drama (melodramatic or otherwise), and that is what makes films engaging. WHO are these characters, WHAT do they want, HOW do they get it? Only later on (if it hasn’t already been established) do we find out the WHY. Outlining helps in tremendous ways for helping to stave off writers block as well. When I start to feel like writing is becoming more of an uphill battle, I always check my outline to see where I’m supposed to be going, cross reference that with my character’s relationships and desires and bam, back on track.
I’m not saying outlining will solve all of your problems but it will definitely help solve a lot of them. All of that pontificating aside, I’m still bad at outlining. I have all of my character histories written up (posted here) and I know what my story is but I don’t know how it ends yet and I don’t know how I’m getting to that end. So how do I get better? I read an article that suggested a lot of ways to help the writing process and one specific tip I jumped on was watching movies similar to the one I wanted to write and outlining them as I watched them. So I did just that…
The movie franchise where I’ve been pulling the most of my influence from in my films is A Nightmare On Elm Street. My favorite of the franchise is Nightmare 3 so naturally I picked that movie to outline first. Below is a link to the outline. Watch the film and see if I did a good job. I think so, but I can only assume I’ll get better, the more movies I start outlining. Once I feel comfortable enough, I’ll take another dive into Undertome’s outline.