Writing stories can sound so easy but it takes a lot of imagination, talent and a mastery of the language to make everything work. Even with all the literature available online and in libraries, there are no definite instruction manual or formula for creating a good piece of work. One important thing though, is to know how to give your storyline a smooth flow. The best way to do this is through a story outline template.

Story Outline Templates

Why do you need a story outline template?

One of the most difficult challenges when writing a story is how to begin it. Often, you would find yourself staring at a blank page not knowing how to start. One great way to overcome this obstacle is by creating a story outline template to serve as your guide.

Many bestselling writers have succeeded in their endeavors by following this simple rule: creating a story or novel outline template. The outline is the framework of the story and this makes it easier for you to start – and continue – writing. You can either develop your story’s plot outline by yourself or you can download a story plot outline template to make the task easier. Investing time in making a novel outline template gives you better foresight of the novel you plan to write.

Novel Outline Templates

Types of stories

Although all stories come from unique ideas, most of them tend to follow a certain plot outline. Since the past stories have fallen into seven types. These form the archetypes that have grabbed the attention of readers through the years. Today, these stories may appear as marketing pieces like single TV spots or become part of a bigger narrative that tells the story of a company.

The stories you tell, no matter what type or what story or book outline template you use, send a clear message to your readers whether you have carefully crafted the story or not. Here are the story types you may consider if you plan to write your own tale:

  • A voyage and a return
    This is almost similar to the previous type except for “The Return” part. A very notable example of this type of story which applies in a modern setting is Howard Schulz’s return to head the Starbucks empire after a long hiatus. When the brand comes back to its prior ways of business, it takes part in a “Voyage” and “Return” storyline.
  • Comedy
    Comedy can be effectively used to engage and entertain your readers. If you want to make others laugh, you can create a plot outline template that’s all about comedic events or one that focuses on a funny character.
  • Going on a quest
    There are many of these narratives with their main theme being that the journey is worth much more than its destination. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit, and even The Catcher in the Rye are some of the best examples.
  • Overcoming the enemy
    The best example of this kind of story is David and Goliath. This story has a basic narrative about a plucky underdog who bucks the status quo despite odds that seem insurmountable. A more modern example is Erin Brockovich and several other movies you have probably seen already.
  • Rags to riches
    This type of story is the best in developing a character’s reputation. It often makes use of the vulnerability that’s inherent in the story and makes a formidable person appear to be more approachable, friendly, and open.
  • Rebirth
    Often, things can inevitably go wrong. You can use a story of rebirth to inspire others to keep going despite such challenges. Its combination of success and vulnerability could become one powerful package for your readers.
  • Tragedy
    Challenging as it is to write a tragedy, it’s one of the most popular types of stories out there. Emotional connections are always important and for some people, they love reading about these connections. The use of tragic stories can help deeply engage readers and keep them coming back for more.

Book Outline Templates

Types of story outline templates

As mentioned, there is no one formula for a story outline template. Think of a room that is all messed up. Different people could organize the room in as many different ways. So if you think you’re having trouble outlining your story, you might just be in a classic case of fitting a square peg in a round hole.

Remember that every writer has their storyline and for you, it’s just a question of finding the right one that would fit your mindset, writing style, and personality. Here are a few suggestions for story or novel outline templates you can create:

  • Beat Sheets
    These document the beats of the story in shorthand and are usually presented in bullets or numbers.
  • Characters First
    For this, you would create an outline of your story’s lead characters. It should prioritize character development, character beats, and character arcs over creating the plot outline.
  • Mind Map
    This is the visual approach that you can use in outlining that defines spatial relationships between your themes, plot points, chapters, characters, conflicts, and so on.
  • Scenes and Sequences
    Here, you should create a detailing of all sequences and scenes which you consider are the major parts of the story.
  • Synopsis
    The synopsis offers an overview of the story’s plot, the conflicts, characters, and overall theme. You would write everything down in about 2 to 3 pages.
  • The Skeleton
    This is almost like a book outline template but it concentrates more on the most important plot points. You can compare it to a road mark where only the most significant destinations have red markings. How to get to the destination will be your call.

Plot Outline Templates

How to outline a novel?

A novel outline template is almost like the framework of a novel. It is a document that includes important information about the novel’s structure, characters, plot, and more. This document’s length can vary from 1-page to a comprehensive visual mind map that includes diagrams to show the connections between ideas and information.

If you have spare space in your work area, you can use index cards then post these on the wall. This makes it easier for you to see and modify the parts of your story outline template. Each of the events should just be one sentence. You can make an outline of your story or novel using these methods:

  • Bookend Method
    This method is perfect for you if you prefer leaving some things to chance. Basically, the idea here is to plot the novel’s start and beginning along with its characters. The method is highly recommended if you already have a solid grasp of the story you want to tell and its characters.
  • In-Depth Outline
    This one is a more detailed outline that provides chapter summaries where you outline the different scenes within them. Being more comprehensive in scope, it takes more time to write this. Many writers prefer this outline because it helps them stay on track.
    Some in-depth outlines are almost like novelettes in length containing about 10,000 words. As for the physical length, it may involve several pages of handwritten notes with the plot written in columns to represent the novel’s timeline and the tracking every scene, main plot, subplots, characters, and more.
  • Snowflake Method
    Randy Ingermanson, a writing instructor and author, created this method of making story outlines. It all starts with a single-sentence summary of your story. In this method, you have to build the sentence into a paragraph. Then you would build on that paragraph to create character descriptions. From there, you create storylines involving those characters. The process spins outwards until you form a fully-outlined novel.
  • Synopsis Outline
    This document, which usually is about 1 -2 pages short, provides an initial idea of the novel’s structure, but still leaves space for flexibility. As the name implies, it’s a synopsis or summary, pinpointing all the main events of your story.

Plot Outlines

How to write a story outline for short stories?

You can best learn the art of writing stories by first writing short stories as it’s the best way to discover what your weaknesses and strengths are. These involve fewer words and there’s less pressure compared to when you need to write a novel.

As a new writer, you can further develop your skills by entering short story competitions. Such competitions can train you in terms of meeting deadlines and giving you potential platforms for your work. Short stories have short-term goals and can be great motivators for you as a writer. Following are the steps to help you create a short story outline template:

  • Choose the protagonist of your story
    This, of course, is the story’s main character on which all of the interesting stuff in the story happens.
  • Decide on the setting
    This is the place where your story occurs. There can be more than a single setting for your story.
  • Decide on a problem to solve or a goal to achieve
    This is what motivates the protagonist. You need to think of the conflicts that make your story more interesting.
TemplateLab April 6th, 2020