If you wish there were an easy way to organize your outlining notes into a clear, detailed, easy-to-use narrative, you’re in luck. Here is our official scene-by-scene outlining spreadsheet. To get your own, load that Google Sheets link, go to File > Make a Copy…, and boom, you’ll have your own blank template, ready to fill.
The columns should be self-explanatory, but here are notes just in case.
- #, the scene number.
- expected length in word-count or time-to-read.
- name, a brief nickname for the scene.
- POV, whose point-of-view we’re seeing the story from. If you’re writing in third-person, put the character who is in focus.
- other characters who feature (named or otherwise).
- location where the scene takes place (name, short description, etc.).
- what happens in this scene, boiled down to ten words or less. Include action and movement to launch readers in.
- word-wrapped detailed summary of the scene, like what happens but with more detail. Include anything you’ll need in order to picture the scene when you’re drafting.
- what changes in the scene; if you can’t think of anything to put here, you have a problem.
- what’s unexpected in the scene; include events and twists that will keep readers on their toes.
- character traits expressed in both focus and non-focus characters. This can help characters feel fleshed-out and consistent.
- conflicting emotions and desires, to keep tension high. These can also add depth to your main and side characters.
- source of tension, such as danger, conflict, anxiety, uncertainty, a ticking clock, etc.
- relation to central theme of the story — how the scene ties into your intended message.
- sensory experience — sight, smell, touch, sound, taste, temperature, pain, etc.
- the emotional experience your focus character is going through, expressed through either their inner narration or, especially, through their reactions.
- non-POV character’s non-verbal emotion. A quick way to add tension and intrigue to a scene is to also show your non-focus character(s) reacting to events. Their reaction can agree, differ, or even conflict with that of your focus character.
- POV character reacts to surroundings. Have you received complaints that your characters aren’t a part of the location — that you could change the setting to the summit of an exploding volcano and nothing would change? Have them react to and interact with the setting.
Have a suggestion for a column? Want to show off your detailed outline? Contact us!