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Old 06-10-2012, 01:45 PM   #1
Mortal_Remains
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Default What's your outlining process?

As you are about to set out on the adventure of writing a script, how do you prepare for the endeavor?

Do you outline the main story beats, then move into character building before you flesh out each story beat? When do you come up with the names of your characters etc...

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Old 06-10-2012, 06:13 PM   #2
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Default Re: What's your outlining Process?

Names of the characters is easy: I have a copy of the Manhatten white pages. Unless I have a specific ethnicity in mind, I just randomly pick a name. I let my fingers do the walking.
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Old 06-10-2012, 07:56 PM   #3
emily blake
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Default Re: What's your outlining Process?

I think a lot, brainstorm it with a friend, then I write a treatment. Then I rewrite the treatment. Then I do character bios. Then I edit the treatment.
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Old 06-10-2012, 08:01 PM   #4
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Default Re: What's your outlining Process?

I am fairly rigid with the big main events but I'm super loose with what connects them. I like to let my characters have breathing room. As for names...it's always different.
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Old 06-10-2012, 08:03 PM   #5
Patrick Sweeney
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Default Re: What's your outlining Process?

Once I have a premise and basic idea of the story, I come up with a list of the major characters. They get names during this process, and I also figure out how they're going to arc over the story.

Then I think about the spine of the story - the setup, the break into Act 2, the midpoint, the break into Act 3, and the ending. Once I pin down those beats, I fill in the rest of the beats in a sequence-by-sequence outline, eight sequences around 10-12 pages each (though in writing I of course give myself leeway for some to come in longer and others shorter; it's not set in stone).

Once I've got my characters and my sequence outline nailed down, I normally just start writing. I know what needs to happen in each sequence, and I've envisioned some key scenes by now, but I generally don't figure out every individual scene until I get to that sequence. (I do a rough outline of each sequence before I write it, but it's pretty flexible).

I might do better to work on a scene outline or treatment before writing, but so far I haven't been able to resist digging into the draft that long.
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Old 06-10-2012, 09:15 PM   #6
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Default Re: What's your outlining process?

Index cards and notes first getting bare-bones stuff together.

Then, I go to a spreadsheet with the following columns:

SEQUENCE, SYNOPSIS, SCENE, PROBLEM (one problem column for at least the characters who are the most prominent).

The sequence is something like "Fred goes to the river and finds a body".

The synopsis would be "Looking worn out, Fred drives to the river with his fishing gear. He's enjoying himself in the morning sun - but then he spots a dead body in the reeds. He can't get phone reception, so he drives back to town and visits the police. They accompany him back to the river -- but the body is gone. They think he's a flake."

The necessary scene summaries are then added to deliver what's outlined in the synopsis, so:

INT. CAR -- DAY
Fred drives to the river.

EXT. RIVER -- DAY
Fred fishes -- enjoying himself. He spots a dead body in the reeds. He freaks out. He can't get phone reception.

INT. CAR -- DAY
Fred drives back to town, very shaken.

INT. POLICE STATION -- DAY
Fred bundles into the station, yelling about a dead body.

EXT. RIVER -- DAY
The police are with Fred at the river. There's no body there now. The police are annoyed and dismissive.

The problem column might be "Fred is worn out from work" up until he finds the body, then it changes to "he's found a damn dead body!" and then later "the body is gone and the police don't believe him". I find the problem column helps me focus on what is confronting the character and making sure that it's changing and/or intensifying rather than staying static.

So the scene column is the atomic unit and the other ones bracket the scenes. It's an obvious progression, but I go from sequence to synopsis to scene -- getting more specific as I break it down.

I've probably confused the hell out of anyone who has read this far. It's easier to understand laid out on a spreadsheet, but I couldn't figure out how to easily convey it using the formatting here.
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Old 06-10-2012, 09:26 PM   #7
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Default Re: What's your outlining process?

4 out of 5 times mine begins with the title. Don't know why. It just does. Titles are what inspire me.

From that I ask a pretty important question. What kind of story goes with that kind of title? Then the daydreaming begins. That can last anywhere from 1 hour to 10+ years. It's a crap shoot.

I start writing when I start writing. Flailing in the dark. Scenes that probably do nothing but begin to flesh out my main character. He/she begins to tell me who they are and what they want (besides driving me insane - because that's the implied obvious).

Once I think I know who they are based on what they've told me, I start to do some research, because I know that they're lying and withholding some key things just like everybody would. Or maybe it's stuff they find so normal in their world that they simply forgot to mention it.

During this.... still writing. Flailing.

Based on the things I'm learning, I use a variation on the snowflake method. Big thing into gradually smaller things. Those usually guide me toward the act breaks, midpoints, etc. But not in a set in stone way.

Sometimes I'll break out the notecards. Spend a day writing on them only to look at them the next day and ask, "What the hell is this?" That's when they find some dusty desk drawer where they will remain until the next time I clean it out.

Writing. Flailing.

Read some more. Figure out who these new people are that keep insisting they deserve a part in this story.

By now, I've got some good scenes. Talked them out when driving to and from work. Had to pull over a couple of times to write them down before I forgot them. Where'd I put that notebook? That envelope? Oh well. Figure out something else. Must not have been that good.

Might sit down and write the numbers 1-120 on a few sheets of paper (those are my pages btw). Sprinkle some scenes in where I think they might go. Build some bridges between them. Oh... hey! Is that an act break right there? Sure looks like one. We'll say it is.

Writing. Flailing. This thing is a mess. Did I set-up this payoff? Did I payoff that set-up? Where's that scene? (I'm already rewriting before I've finished writing.)

The flailing has gotten me to FADE OUT. But yet... I'm still outlining. Fine tuning. Moving things around. Squishing things. Stretching things. Adding boards to the bridges to make them safer. Smoother.

My outline isn't changing much now. It's grown fond of itself. It insists upon itself. I hope it knows what it's doing.

Now the therapy begins. From page one I tiptoe through the script. The first time around, I put in what the characters should say. Now I sit back and listen to what they want to say. I'm beginning to understand them better. I can now take out the roadblocks that were holding them back.

And done. At least until I get my first reader's notes.

I want to outline. I want to learn how to do it. But it's so clinical. Sterile.

Even if I wrote a treatment, I'd end up going off the plan when it came to draft time, because the intimacy wasn't there, so my treatments and synopsis have to be reverse engineered from the (pretty much) finished screenplay.

Sorry to drag on so, but I didn't get my writing time in today so I had to get a word count in. Figured I'd get in out here and call it a day.
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Old 06-10-2012, 09:48 PM   #8
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Default Re: What's your outlining process?

Oh, I actually left out a pretty critical step - can't believe I did that. Before I start working out story beats or sometimes even characters, I get a yellow legal pad and write a list of everything that can possibly happen in this movie. Characters, locations, dialogue, scenes, beats, action sequences, FX, whatever. This normally goes on for a few days off and on. Once I start slowing down, then I move on to the next step. Eventually, of course, I'll cut that big list down to the very best stuff that actually works in the final version of the story.
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Old 06-10-2012, 10:29 PM   #9
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Default Re: What's your outlining process?

I haven't got a system worked out yet. There's usually a mix of mind-mapping, index cards and finally somekind of flow chart. I don't do treatments. Maybe cause it's comedy, but I need room to explore the story as I write - so as long as I have a beat i'm working towards.
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Old 06-11-2012, 02:07 AM   #10
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Default Re: What's your outlining process?

I usually build the script in my head and don't bother with any form of written notes. However, my latest script has two parallel stories, one told chronologically, the other in a series of non-sequential flashbacks.

My brain is not sufficiently evolved to cope with this, so I've mapped the whole thing out on an Excel spreadsheet, with a column for each story, broken up into scenes, with the non-sequential storyline color-coded so that I can cut and paste scenes into the chronological column as required. If any of that makes sense, let me know.

The script might not amount to much, but the spreadsheet looks pretty cool.
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