Whether you’re starting a relatively short story or plan to right your magnum opus, using a story outline template to organize the main structure of your story will let you focus more on the characterization, plot, and themes of the work.
The outline for a fictional story is more important than you might think. Like a building, a story must be carefully designed because if the pieces do not fit together properly, the entire work could collapse. You probably began with a central concept or theme, and now want to build around that concept with characters and events. Here’s how to start.
Structure of the Outline
You can include a title section that lists the working title, genre, setting, and point-of-view you will write in. It’s good to write your theme and a one- to two-sentence summary of your story at the top as well, to remind yourself of the big picture when fleshing out details. Then roughly divide your entire story into 2 to 4 major parts or “acts.” These will be divided into chapters, but you don’t have to do that immediately.
One traditional story structure would then break the story down according to the progression of the main character’s arc or the plot. Here is a simple example:
I. Part 1
A. Initial conflict/event
1. Effect on character
II. Part 2
A. Rising action
C. Turning Point
When you have the structure you want, you can begin to divide these sections into scenes and flesh out specific aspects of each scene and the characters’ thoughts. By organizing the narrative and character arcs to start, you can easily see how logical each is and how well each change you make supports the story’s theme. Separate sections into chapters as you see fit.
Don’t become entrapped by your outline. If you later decide an event or larger aspect of your story is inconsistent with the goals of your writing, feel free to alter the outline.