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Key Tips for Creating a Story Outline

Let’s admit it, writing stories can be extremely difficult. Story writing in itself is no mere feat, and sometimes we wonder just how great writers make their stories so appealing. It doesn’t only apply to novelists and playwrights, but even journalists or essayists who interview people with the remarkable stories they tell. However, one piece of advice story writing enthusiasts seem to tell is to create a story writing outline. Some of you may have already heard this – but to create an outline of a story to write? Just how is this possible?

No One Way

Of course, if you’re a writer and you’re reading this, you’re probably going to say: “All you need to know about outlining can’t possibly be in this article!” And you’re right – there’s no one right way to create your story outline. It all depends on the kind of story you want to make. However, if you already have an idea on how your story goes, it’s not so bad to remember why it’s important to make an outline in the first place. In order to help you remember the important bits, here’s why you should explore the notion of creating an outline of your story:

  • It helps make writing the entire thing easier. When you work on a blank page, it’s extremely hard to write parts of your story. However, if you know what you’re supposed to work on for a certain project, then it’s going to be easy for you to at least write some parts of it. You’re going to be committed to write in the order you want, and it motivates you to write properly. It also helps readers be able to read your piece easier because you yourself know that you have to condense parts of your story into the one segment you’ve decided to write.
  • It also helps make everything in your story memorable, thorough, and concise. Readers of your certain segment or chapter will remember the parts attached to it because you’re forced to make abstract concepts much more appealing and memorable. These parts help you sustain the flow you want for a story, making it thorough and concise. You won’t go out of your way to create parts of your story you can’t consistently follow-through because your outline now wants you to be extra careful.
  • It also makes sure your story has balance and symmetry. This means the assembled components of your books form a “shape” that creates the entire flow of the story. It also keeps balance throughout chapters and sections because you properly understand the weight you’re putting on each chapter. You don’t get to overspend time on one section and just quickly write the next.
  • Perhaps the most important, it also gives you the ability to develop a healthy writing habit that would most definitely help you in the long run. You might think creating outlines can be a bit hassle for you, but it’s a good writing exercise. After all, you’ll finally be able to have a consistent way of encouraging you to write.

Story Writing Outline: The Basics

Now that you’ve had a rough idea on why you should truly make your outline, now’s the time to discuss the basics of outline creation. You may understand by now that outlines differ on the kind of story you want to make. However, there really are some necessary components an outline should have to help you.

  • Always remember that the character is important to how the plot works. Your characters make everything that’s happening to your story, which means your characters must have the motivation to get the plot going. Of course, when it comes to commercial fiction, this could be a more obvious part of your story. However, it has to be important enough for your readers to care for the character. Your protagonists, antagonists, and everyone in between have to be “consistently” good, evil, or whatever kind of personality you attach to them.
  • In turn, character motivation has to be a priority in your plot outlines. Always remember that while the plot may work around your characters, the motivation of the characters, in general, shouldn’t change. The goals themselves can be abstract than a more defined goal, but the important thing is that the motive should be consistent throughout your work. The outline should be able to reflect this even before you plan on writing your actual work.
  • Plot development, in turn, should be just as compelling and surprising. Of course, scenes and chapters serve to either help the protagonist move towards their goal or to throw them away. However, always remember that chapters should have a point and a purpose. Change is at the heart of every story, and characters should show how well they respond to the influx of new challenges and information in order for them to change – for better or for worse.
  • This also means plots can take in a wide variety of forms when outlined. You don’t always have to use bullets or lists. It can be a completely different way of drawing outlines – such as scenes or maps. However, always make sure your plot follows a structure. The best way to do this is to observe how other famous writers execute their stories. Think of the way their stories are structured. Are the protagonists invited or tasked with their goal? Did the hero initially refuse the task? Or did something happen to have the hero change his mind and do the task? Did the hero want a challenge to conquer, or did the hero seem to fail? These are some of the elements you could use to get a basic idea of your story.

Outline: Making One For Story Writing

Now that you have a general look on how the story you have in mind works, now it’s time to create the outline in itself. You can choose a wide variety of tactics and strategies to make the outline you think is best. However, always remember that outlines still have to possess basic components in order to work their fullest.

  • Get your premise right. The premise, as you know, is perhaps the one that will give you and readers the most general and basic idea for the rest of your story. It’s not enough to have the premise as a one-sentence idea. It can’t be an entire essay of an exposition either. You have to make sure you, or anyone, understand the basic premise of your story enough to get the plot going. The motivation has to be clear, and the characters have to be set out properly.
  • Your scenes can be sketched in place. With your premise in mind, you can finally create ideas for your story. You may best do this by learning how your world “works.” Write what you know about the entire story so far. You may even get a few ideas on how scenes will work. They don’t have to be in order – just having them now is enough. Just add them to a big list of ideas and flesh them out one by one. When you have an idea that can be fleshed out, separate them from the ones you think don’t work. Identify the potential plot holes you might encounter and immediately remove the scenes you think wouldn’t work. You can then finally flesh out the ideas that were left by trying your best to weave them together in a cohesive plot. This is now the basic idea of your story.
  • You can then finally get to know your characters. Try to understand how best your characters interact with certain situations. How would they answer personal questions that you would throw at them? Understand your characters now so you can have a basic idea of how your character will be invested in the plot you’re creating. These characters aren’t your children but are rather actors and important elements of a story you have in mind. They need to be able to find some reason to be invested in how the story plays out.
  • The next is to explore all the settings in your story. It doesn’t have to be super specific, but it can’t be super vague either. You have to learn all the elements that make your setting “tick” and function as a cohesive unit. This is why it’s best to work with stories that have settings you’re familiar with. How do people work there, and how does society fare? How affected are your settings, given the problem at hand? How will your characters interact with the setting? This is important as this defines the “small details” that will give life to the rest of your characters.

With these elements in mind, you may now have enough to formulate a story that can work. Remember that there’s more to an outline than just creating a delightful cast of characters that will work together in order to defeat a common threat. It has to be cohesive and sensible. Your outline will be the first sign to tell whether or not your story will work, which means you have to do this carefully in order for you to have a delightful time writing.


Story writing in itself is not something we can do overnight. It takes hours, days, and even weeks of planning and execution. This is why sometimes writers encourage fellow novelists, essays, and story writing companions to create a story writing outline to make sure their ideas stay intact and within their own topics. With this handy guide in hand, we’ve hopefully steered you to the right direction. Go write your stories now with an outline!