How many aspiring writers have found themselves lying in bed dreaming of short story ideas? Propped up in front of blinking computer screens trying to turn wandering thoughts into coherent sentences. They just can’t seem to cross that bridge from abstract ideas to well-crafted and compelling short stories. The missing key may be as simple as a Story Outline. Instead of trying to organize the entire story inside your head or somehow turn a blank, white screen into a colorful narrative from nothing, why not use an outline to transform your thoughts into a clear path to a finished story? This is where a short story outline format comes in. It could be the missing bridge from distant imagination to concrete creation.
How to Write Your Story Outline
Imagine a photo with missing pieces and you’re just plugging in your short story ideas into those blank spaces. That unfinished photo is your short story outline worksheet.
- Missing Piece 1: The Protagonist – The first missing piece is the main character (the protagonist) of your story. WHO IS the person in the photo that your entire story is about? That is the first step of your story outline.
- Missing Piece 2: The Setting – Next, you’ll need to decide on a setting: the background of your photo. WHERE does everything happen to your characters and where will the bulk of the story take place?
- Missing Piece 3: Goal or Problem – Then, ask yourself what the goal or problem is and why it’s important to your character; a.k.a. WHAT is happening to the protagonist in the photo and WHY it is necessary to their development?
- Missing Piece 4: The Plot Pyramid – Finally, turn that “photo” (with the pieces you’ve plugged in) into a collage called your plot. A plot can be pictured as a pyramid that leans heavily to the right. A pyramid your protagonist is trying to climb. At the bottom is that all-encompassing Problem or Goal. The character then starts climbing up during the Rising Action, which is the main part of the story- it’s the problem turned into all the conflicts and challenges your character experiences on their journey towards their goal. At the top of the pyramid is the Climax: the pivotal point where your character either reaches their goal…or they fail. Naturally, after that, you have your Ending where all the blurry pieces and unanswered questions in your story are made clear and your main character understands and accepts the final outcome, whether it’s good or bad.
Here are some short story outline templates to help you plug in the missing pieces:
Blank Life Story Outline Format
Basic Story Outline Template
Short Story Outline Format
Story Outline Template for Word
Story Outline Template PDF Format
Story Outline Example (PDF)
Many writers now use a short story outline worksheet to organize their goal, plot, setting, and character ideas. A worksheet helps sculpt a shapeless slab of stone into a unique work of art by focusing on the most integral parts of your sculpture.
Story Outline Worksheet
Short Story Outline Template PDF
Short Story Outline Example
Fiction Story Outline Template
Children’s story authors may try utilizing Children’s Story Outline Templates, even though the story might be simple, short, and sweet. It’s not about the length or complexity of the story. In fact, outlines and templates are great tools specifically for children’s stories because they take all the random ideas of an infinite imagination and fit them into a simple, articulate framework that a child could understand and enjoy.
Children’s Story Outline Template
Short Story Unit Outline Template
Culpeper’s Rebellion Story Outline PDF
News Story Outline Template
Novel Summary Outline Template PDF Format
Tips for Writing a Short Story Outline
- Think Big Picture, Not Details – Focus on a simple, general outline; not an entire story word-for-word.
- Use a Template if Possible – Don’t start with a blank screen; use a pre-made template to plug in your ideas. you may also like to see a book outline format for more ideas.
- Imagine the Story, Not the Words – Picture scenes, action, and color; not just words that describe them.
- Ask Questions to Find Answers – Write out questions and examples/answers for each piece of your story or novel outline. You’re more likely to fill in the pieces if you know what you’re looking for.
- Write More, Think Less – Don’t spend all your time thinking of what to put down. Write first and edit later.