Character plot lines - help?

Is it better to write out one characters whole plot line for an episode at a time and then the next ones and then interlace the scenes from the two after or do it chronologically?

Trying to do it chronologically and I can't focus on the different characters plot because I'm still thinking about the first but I'm also worried that if I do it the other way then I won't be able to gel the different strands together coherently.

Or is this a general outlining problem?

One would hope that each characters arc is very much dependent on the other characters' arcs - so writing them seperatley could cause problems.
This is where slightly more thorough outling comes in - that's where you should be messing about with plot etc

Any tips or tools to help with outlining?

Now you're asking.
Bit busy trying to be a Dad today - but I'll look out some decent resources and post tomorrow if that's OK?

That would be great, thanks!

Quote: Lazzard @ 18th January 2015, 12:15 PM GMT

Now you're asking.
Bit busy trying to be a Dad today - but I'll look out some decent resources and post tomorrow if that's OK?

Sorry to interrupt your attempts at intercourse!

Outlining is simple. Make three sections. Have the end in mind. At the end of each section have a major reversal that points towards that ending. In every scene have something happen that advances or potentially f**ks up that ending, Make the ending something about what your main character wants. DO not have a scene that does not do the above. Look at an episode of your favourite sitcom that your own best resembles in terms of form. Count the number of scenes. Use the exact number of scenes in your episode.

It isn't many!!

If it is a 'thwarting of big ambition through line' for the episode make every thwarting bigger than the last. Make the last thwarting of all an absolute dooozie! .

Usually it best to f**k your character up.

Then just write it up with great dialogue that comes from the perfectly constructed narrative that is all there to serve the great character you have invented.

Its simple :)

Top advice from MarcP.

On a practical level outlining is about breaking it down so you can build it up.
You need to know the essence of your story first off - to the point where you can write it down in three or four short paragraphs (longer for a film, but this is for a 30min comedy).
For examples go to theexcellent 'TV' resource on this site and the episode guides to some of the classics.
The episode synopsis are what you're looking for.
You need to write that down - doesn't matter what you call it - synopsis, story whatever, just write it down.
Essentially it should be the answer to the question "What happens?" (whereas a 'log-line' is the answer to the question "what's it about?")

Some would now divide that into three acts - which all stories are essentially.
1.Chase man up tree 2. Throw rocks at him.3. Watch as he tries to get down.
I don't bother - in my opinion good storytellers instinctively write in three acts.
I use a sequence approach.
Divide the story into sequences ie the bit where Del Boy has the idea, the bit where he convinces someone to do something, the bit where Rodney... etc etc.
These are like separate bits of drama that get played out to some sort of conclusion.
Now write down what happens in each of those sequences - not the jokes - but what happens.
Now subdivide the Sequence into Scenes - again not jokes, but what happens, where it happens, who's in it etc
As you're doing this (and the sequence bit) you're bound to come up with some funnies -make a note of these but don't write them into your summaries - keep them purely about story telling.

Now and only now do you start to build the script back up.
Nothings set in stone - in fact it shouldn't be - but you have a clear path, each job is a manageable one and you shouldn't get lost or overwhelmed

Keeping track of all this information can be hard.
The classic 'Hollywood'' way was to use index cards on a cork board, and there are plenty of cork board programmes out there.
I use a programme called Scrivener which pretty well allows you to work anyway you want - including index cards.


It's much cheaper than most screenwriting programmes and it'll let you do everything from brainstorming an idea to producing a properly formatted script.

Hope this helps a little.

NB You might note that in the example I've shown, I have in fact used 3 Acts - these were put on at a later date, as a lot of prod co's etc do like to see a Three Act Structure.
I just don't use it the early stages of my work.

An act signifies a major shift in the direction of the outcome of the story. Odd numbers, as in flower arranging, work here, So three acts or five. But in a sitcom three would be fine. It's instinctive as Lazzard says but sometimes writing it down helps you come up with a doozie. Just off the wall ideas that make you think how the f**k can he get out of that etc, or wowthat's the story ended, hang on there is another hour etc. Mainly in longer narrative form there I guess. Sometimes the pen on the paper dislocates a part of your brain and you come up with shit - either in the sick sense modern usage, or the old sense. But the more ideas you throw away the better the ones that are left are.

If you are really stuck on how to move forward in plotting - go back to your character bible and see what your protagonist had for breakfast three weeks ago.

Great advice, guys. I'll play around with a few of the ideas for this new episode in my head and see where it takes me.

> Is it better to write out one characters whole plot line for an episode at a time and then the next ones and then interlace the scenes from the two after

I've never heard of doing it this way, though that's probably a good way to go if you're writing a farce episode or you want to do something like Arrested Development.