Day 7: Plot Outline: Act One

Ah, the characters are done. It’s now time to look at the character arcs and the main plot to form a tight, cohesive story. The best way to do that is through a plot outline: this is the stage where I basically list everything that has to happen. It makes writing a script a lot easier rather than figuring out what happens as you write it.

I started working on the plot outline today. I concentrated completely on the first Act of the script. Like most scripts, my feature will have three acts. The first act is about 30 pages, the second act is about 60 pages, and the third act is about 30 pages. I plan to also break Act Two down into parts but I’ll get more into that tomorrow.

The first act has a tough job: it has to introduce the characters, establish the plot, and make you care about it all. Since my story is actually made up of multiple character arcs, that meant that I had to parse out the time I spent on each character. Each character has at least two scenes that not only allows me to tell you who they are but also to set up hints as to where they are going. Meanwhile, I had to slowly build to the inciting incident (zombies taking over the world).

The first thing I did when working on the plot outline was create a new word document. This works more as a reference and is not the actual outline: I put all of the character arc information here in one page. I then created a spreadsheet and used that to create the outline. Why a spreadsheet? There are multiple reason and the first is it keeps me on track. I give every scene I write an estimated page count. A spreadsheet allows me to add the page count of multiple scenes at ease and even gives me a number of how many pages I have left. It’s very technical but very useful.

One other reason I use the spreadsheet is because I can have multiple fields. One field is the scene number, the second field is what happens, the third field are the characters in the scene, the fifth is the page count, and the sixth is which character arc or plot arc does it belong to. All of these references will help me write the script in many ways. I know which players are involved in that particular scene, I know which point of view I’m taking as I write it, and I know how long to make the scene.

I’m sorry for getting really technical here but I thought it was worth getting into the process.