The Signpost Outline Method

Recently, I’ve been researching different outline methods in an effort to find one that works for me. I don’t use outlines as a general rule, but there seems to be a lot of merit to them for everyone else I’ve talked to. Thanks to Writer’s Digest, I’ve discovered the signpost outline. It’s structured, but it allows for a high degree of flexibility. It looks a little something like this:

Scene 1: Action Scene

SETTING: The park, late afternoon

CHARACTERS: Shelly, a stalker

PLOT: Shelly sits on a park bench reading the paper. She feels like someone is watching her, but when she looks around, she can’t see anyone.

Scene 2: Interior/Contemplative Scene

SETTING: Shelly’s house, midnight

CHARACTERS: Shelly, an intruder

PLOT: Shelly wakes to a sound in the middle of the night, but she thinks she must be paranoid. She thinks about the effect that her impending divorce has had on her life as she goes back to sleep. Unbeknownst to her, she has a nighttime visitor.

Scene 3: Dialogue Scene

SETTING: Shelly’s house, an hour later

CHARACTERS: Shelly, the police

PLOT: The next morning, Shelly wakes up to find all of her underwear is missing. She calls the police, and they begin an investigation into the mysterious panty-snatcher.

I’m sure there are some flaws to this method, but it’s working fine for me so far. I don’t prefer to outline, but if you do, this is a great strategy. If you’re averse to outlining, you might want to give this style a shot.

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