The Step Outline


1. Structure 

  • In structure, one thing happens because of the other. 

  • Structure is that simple, and that hard. 

  • Always cut out elements that have little or nothing to do with your story. Or, if possible, bind them into your story / structure / plot. 

  • At all steps along the way, make sure the scene you're in was caused by the scene that went before. And the following scene is there because of the one you're in. Keep this rhythm going to have a great story. 

2. The Step Outline

  • The step outline is the scene to scene development of the story. Basically, your 2 minute movie. Scene to scene to scene. 

  • 1 step doesn't necessarily equate to 1 scene. 1 step can consist of 2 scenes. 

  • (EG.) A husband driving up to a house. He goes in to confront his wife.

This makes up 1 step but is 2 scenes. 

1 step can be 1 page or 8 to 10 pages. Usually, 1 step will be 4 pages or less. 

  • Remember to ask yourself: "Is that all there is? Have I milked all the dramatic gold in this scene?" So as to make sure you're really taking advantage of the material in the scene, even if it has to be several pages long. 

  • But also, remember not to devalue short scenes. A woman drives up to a house, goes inside, and shoots her husband. No dialogue. That's almost half a page. A good example of showing, not telling. 


1. An alien spaceship lands. ET is left behind.

2. ET goes to a suburban home. Little boy is having a pizza party.

3. ET connects with the boy.

4. Boy smuggles ET into his suburban home. 

  • The story will have between 30 to 45 steps. 

  • Approximately 30 steps for drama. Around 45 steps for action/adventure.

  • Keep in mind that the most common pitfall is overwriting. Since most screenplays are too convoluted, it's usually easier to add 10 pages than cut 10. 

3. The Three Act Breakdown

Page 17

  • End of Act 1 = the situation is revealed

  • (EG) This is when ET meets Elliot.

 When Butch talks to Sundance about going to Bolivia.

 When the little girl is approached by the pedophile in Fallen Angel. 

  • Act 1 consists of: the Foreshadowing of the situation, character introduction / audiences have some time to get to know the character, then the total unveiling of the situation. 

Page 85, approximately

  • Act 2 = The Complications

  • Around 15 to 30 steps for Act 2 

Page 100 to 110, approximately

  • Act 3

  • Remember that only Page 17 stays firm.

  • Act 2 and Act 3 page numbers are not fixed, and are dependent on your story. Act 3's page count depends on how Act 2 goes.