How to Outline a Play

Plays begin with a written script, similar to a film script. Many playwrights structure a play before writing it, just as film writers and novelists. While different writers may outline their work in different ways, a playwright can use any outline method, or a combination of methods, to help guide him during the writing process.

Write a story synopsis. The synopsis should contain the story from start to finish, told in prose fashion. The synopsis should touch on all the major events and turning points in your story and can be between five and twenty-five pages long. This synopsis will give you the foundation necessary to construct an outline.

Write down the general acts of your play. Plays can be can any number of acts, ranging from one to five. The act structure of the play is more obvious than in film, therefore it makes sense to begin the outline process of a play using the acts as a key component in your outline. Determine the number of acts your play will have and write down each act (Act One, Act Two, Act Three) as a heading on a standard sheet of paper. This can be done on a computer as well, in a word processor. If you work by hand, leave room beneath each act heading for the interior structure of each act.

Write a numbered list beneath each act heading. Beside each number, write a must-happen event. These events must happen in order for the play to unfold correctly. Outlining in this fashion can help you ensure there are no holes in your story as you go. Keep the outline handy as you write. checking off each of the must-happen events as they are completed.

About the Author

About Carl Hose Carl's work has appeared in the zombie anthology Cold Storage, which he co-edited. His work has also appeared in Champagne Shivers 2007, DeathGrip: It Came from the Cinema, DeathGrip: Exit Laughing, the horror-romance anthology Loving the Undead, the erotic paranormal ghost anthology Beyond Desire, and several issues of Lighthouse Digest. Carl's nonfiction has appeared in The Blue Review and Writer's Journal. Carl lives in Georgia with his lovely fiancee Marcella and their two boys (with a baby on the way). You can visit his web site, Writer’s Inkwell, at