The Outlining Process (part 2)...

OK, getting back to my blog from May 13th. Let’s review the bullet point outline from the previous blog:

1). Joe arrives home from work. He finds his wife’s dead body in the bedroom. She’s been killed.

2). Joe is interviewed by a police detective.

3). A week later, Joe is back at work; he can barely get through the day.

4). After work, Joe goes to a neighborhood bar and has had a bit too much to drink. He meets Carla, an attractive young lady.

5). Joe takes Carla back to his place and they “have a good time.”

6). The next morning, Joe wakes up…and discovers Carla’s dead body in bed beside him. She’s been killed!

Now, here’s how I might write up an initial draft of a somewhat more in-depth outline for those scenes:

1). JOE at work (what type of work does he do?)...plush office...private secretary...well-respected...has some close pals/colleagues he’s worked with for several years...intro colleague/friend RON...

2). Joe drives home in his luxury car...up into the hills...listening to jazz music...and arrives at his very large house...there’s another car (belonging to his wife) in the driveway...

3). Joe enters house...checks mail...loosens tie...pours himself a drink...settles at the desk in his home office...starts doing some work.

4). An hour or so has passed and Joe glances at a photo of his wife on desk. Finds it odd that he hasn’t seen her. So he goes looking for her. Searches kitchen...she’s not there...goes upstairs...

5). Goes into his wife’s work room (she’s a clothing designer??) and she’s not there, either. He goes into the bedroom...and he finds wife dead on the floor. She’s been strangled.

6). An hour later and Joe, in a haze, is being interviewed by a police DETECTIVE.

DETECTIVE: When did you see her last?
JOE: How’s that?
DETECTIVE: When did you see her last?
JOE: This morning. Before I left for the office. About 8:30.
DETECTIVE: How was your relationship with your wife?
JOE: Relationship? We were married twelve years. We had our ups and downs. But I loved her, Detective. She loved me.
DETECTIVE: Did either of you see other people...outside the marriage?
JOE: No. I’d never do that to my wife. Never.
DETECTIVE: What about her?
JOE: She wasn’t that kind of woman, Detective.


7). Days later and Joe is back at work. He’s in his office and finding it difficult to concentrate. His buddy Ron comes in to see how he’s doing. Ron invites Joe out after work (to a cigar lounge, tennis club, whatever). Joe declines.

RON: If you need anything – anything at all – I’m here.
JOE: I’m fine. Thanks, Ron.

8). That night, Joe stops at a neighborhood bar. He has a drink or two, then goes to the bathroom. As he enters the men’s restroom, an attractive woman, JILL, is coming out. She apologizes, says she really had to go and the woman’s restroom was tied up. They share a laugh. There’s a spark between them. Back out at the bar, Joe buys Jill a drink. Chit-chat. Some laughs. Jill talks about her recent divorce. Joe says he just split from his wife, but doesn’t mention anything about the murder.

9). Jill’s house. Modest, but clean. Joe and Jill arrive...they’re all over each other before they can even get in through the door...and once inside, they’ve got their clothes off and they’re in the bedroom...discreet FADE OUT.

10). The sound of a phone ringing and an answering machine picking up... “Hi, it’s Jill, leave a message.” And we hear a voice: “Jill, it’s Dave. You’re not here. Not like you to be late without calling. Get back to me ASAP.” Daylight pours through the window as Joe wakes up in Jill’s bed...and he’s groggy...and Jill is not in bed. However, her clothes from the previous night are all over the floor. He goes into the other room and looks for her in the living room...the den...the kitchen...and she’s not there. Very strange, but whatever. Joe goes into the bathroom and rinses his face. He looks at himself in the mirror. “What the hell are you doing?” He turns from the sink and sees...Jill’s nude dead body in the bathtub, submerged under the water!

OK, so there you have it. As you can see, there’s a bit more detail in this outline – details that really weren’t in my bullet point outline. Details, baby, it’s all about the details. And it doesn’t necessarily have to stop here. Eventually, I’ll add more dialogue, more nuances, and more important bits of information to the outline. When all is said and done – just prior to starting on the actual script – I will have a very clear picture of what my screenplay will be. I’ll know the characters, I’ll know the plot-points – I’ll know pretty much all the details that are necessary to properly flesh out a cohesive storyline.

Many will argue, “But outlining gets in the way of my creativity.” Um, okay, so what’s an outline, non-creative? C’mon, the outline is where you explore your creativity and give yourself the opportunity to actually see your movie before you commit it to those 100+ pages. Believe me, I’d rather make changes to a 20 to 40-page outline than a unwieldy screenplay.

And no, I’m not saying you have to stick to your outline 100%. It’s fine to deviate here and there. So go ahead, explore, see where your characters take you – I guarantee that you’ll discover new things along the way – but get as much of the detail worked out ahead of time so you’ll know your beginning, middle and ending – and you know it all works. It’ll make that 110-page trip a lot less bumpy.


APRIL 2015 ANNOUNCEMENT: My debut novel, Luigi's Chinese Delicatessen, is now available in paperback from and Kindle e-book! (You're gonna love it cuz it's all about Hollywood and screenwriting!)

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