I have been struggling to figure out how to outline a story (script). I would like to make an Anthology where it starts off with my main character placing the setting, and then over the course of the story adding in other characters that support and explain the main character's journey to the ultimate end. I am connecting and weaving all the plot points together to make sense at the end. I also would like to have the characters introduced have their own smaller arcs to give depth to my story, but my essential question is how do I outline this in a way that makes sense and is easy to reference while writing?

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    Just making sure I understand: you are speaking of an anthology, as in a collection of distinct works? Or are you talking about one novel? Nov 7, 2018 at 0:11
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    Adding to what Galastel said. This is not an anthology. It's a novel with multiple points of view. Nov 7, 2018 at 6:15
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    The OP says it's a script, not a novel. The project is (probably) "Episodes" within a "Season" (to use the increasingly irrelevant terminology from broadcast television). The season follows a longer story arc that is set up in the first episode and concluded in the finale. The episodes in between are the "anthology", highlighting B characters and sub-stories within the genre: Stranger Things, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, et al.
    – wetcircuit
    Nov 7, 2018 at 13:36
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    Anthologies are stand alone stories bound in a similar series. Twilight Zone is probably the most recognizable Anthology Series. You're probably thinking of a Serial which is a continuous story over multiple over arching entries. Star Wars and possibly the Marvel Cinimatic Universe are examples of scripted stories, and certain TV shows, usually those that have episodes which develop towards the season finally over the course of the season (or longer) with minimum cliffhangers between the arch...
    – hszmv
    Nov 7, 2018 at 17:07
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    @Cyn I work at a school where I asked the question to one of the teachers (english teacher) who knew very little about the overall basis of my question (very busy man) and just went with the quick, limited, information I gave him. Would you agree with hszmv that it is a Serial? Nov 7, 2018 at 19:44

3 Answers 3


Scrivener is good for constructing large stories with many moving parts. It is designed to go from research to final draft, with preset templates for scripts and novels.

I use the "folder and sub-text" hierarchy to organize very large timelines. Each text file within the project can be re-arranged by dragging, and split at a point in the text. There's an index card view that can show a summary, and other views where you add notes outside the main body of text. Contiguous text files can be read as one document. It's flexible to view while everything is still under construction.

It tends to be self-organizing as you arrange the hierarchy to suit the way you are thinking about it. Random notes become an outline, outline is split into chapters, which divide into scenes. A stray scene can be placed somewhere near where it belongs and eventually get massaged into place.

When an idea strikes it's easy to stick a quick note into the project where it belongs, so I'm able to catch and organize more ideas. It's something like a Rolodex, and a content management system, and a word-processor. It has a very utilitarian look which put me off at first, but now I am able to plot (infinitely) larger projects.

  • Wetcircuit, Thank you again for your invaluable information and I am an extremely visual person. I have my ideas in my head of how I want them to look, and be organized finding the right way to put this into words and on paper has been a challenge. I thought about getting a whiteboard and more - or - less drawing some of the points out but I definitely will check out "scrivener." After some research myself, I learned the best way to start before constructing the outline is with a "thought dump". Would you agree? In other words....writing in spasm(ha), everything from setting to characters. Nov 7, 2018 at 19:37
  • @DerekRobertHickman, I agree "thought dump" is necessary for very large intricate projects. There is no way to write it all in order, and some smaller stories will appear almost fully realized, while others will reflect or subvert the formula. Definitely recommend Scrivener for it's ability to "random access" the story, and organize as you go. I went from notes scattered across a dozen notebooks and softwares, to an actual organized timeline with finished "episodes".
    – wetcircuit
    Nov 7, 2018 at 19:44

Complexity Overwhelms the Brain

Complexity is not a great starting point. Yet, the brain often sees the gestalt of everything together and then overwhelms the writer so that they cannot even begin. It's quite a challenge. But the almost impossibility of complexity is also a pointed stick that is telling us to go in another direction.

Focus On The Simplest Element You Can

If you'll break each item into its own component you'll find that you will be able to manage the story and then weave it together. However, if you try to do it all at once you'll probably get something similar to what you might get if you just threw it all in a bucket and mixed it up.

But, of course, you are thinking, "But how do I break it into components?"

How Do You Break It Into Components?

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Sit quietly and imagine all your POV Characters and list them.
  2. List what each character wants.
  3. List the major conflict that each character will experience.

Conflict, More Conflict, With Conflict Sauce On Top

Are your characters in opposition to each other? Hopefully, this is where the weaving begins. This will create specific conflicts and conflict is what the stories are all about.

If you find that your characters are not in conflict with anything then you do not have a story for that particular character.

Write In Scenes

Now, take one character at a time and write one scene.
Write a scene where :

  • The character wants a specific goal.
  • The character is opposed by someone or something that will not allow her to get the goal.
  • By the end of the scene the reader must know what the character wants and believe that the character must have it.
  • To create more conflict --- insure that by the time the scene ends the character is further from his goal than when he started out. Write tough stuff. Get your character into the jelly and so stuck you wonder how you'll write him out. Don't be afraid, you'll figure it out and it'll make great reading.
  • Begin seeing that the various characters want things that will oppose each other over the longer story. Get those subplots going. Make sure you communicate that directly to your reader. Bob wants the McGuffin! He must have it. But so does Sarah. She will fight for it!
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    Raddevus, You have helped me immensely. I have been looking for this advice/information in quite a few different places. The hardest stumbling block and most confusing thing for my creating this world I am imagining and how it all weaves together is/was how to connect each character. I was trying to focus on all characters all at once. I definitely was pulling my hair out. Thank you. Nov 7, 2018 at 19:42
  • @DerekRobertHickman Glad it helped. Thanks for letting me know. I've encountered the same difficulty in my own writing.
    – raddevus
    Nov 7, 2018 at 19:59

I find that time is the most important organising metric for me to keep track of events, characters, technology, artifacts, and/or organisations. I always end up needing a timeline, not necessarily to start with but as an organisational tool once there is either a single long duration narrative or a few separate stories over a long time in the same setting I find one absolutely essential. This doesn't necessarily need dates on it or even defined time gaps between events but it keeps things in the right order.

  • Thank you Ash, I agree, time is important, and I have been delving into who meets who at what time. Events happen at this time or that. I have an idea of going forward and backward in time which will be interesting for me to develop and conceptualize. Nov 7, 2018 at 19:40
  • @DerekRobertHickman I'd suggest reading S.M. Stirling's Emberverse in particular The Protector's War it deals with a nonlinear narrative describing events spread over several months and two continents. If you mean time travel then The Theory and Practice of Time Travel by Larry Niven should be your go to guide.
    – Ash
    Nov 11, 2018 at 10:40

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