Outline Schmoutline

I’m working on an outline or two for upcoming original pilots.  It’s not something that I’m very good about doing.  Or at times think I’m very GOOD at doing.  But it’s something that I have to do.  Or at least a friend of mine said I have to do.  And, yeah, I believe him.   I just wish it was something that came natural to me.  In other words, MAN, I wish it was easy.

I get the point of outlining.  You need to know what story you have.  You need to know where the pieces fit together.  You need to know where its all heading.  And I think I realized WHY that’s so important for a TV script rather than a play.  They are different beasts, aren’t they?

I know a lot of playwrights who don’t like the idea of outlining–me included.  Outlining feels like… like you would lose the spirit of discovery.  Characters, for me, come alive on the page.  They have wants, needs, idiosyncrasies that drive them.  And that makes them unpredictable.  Which is great, because if they are unpredictable, there’s a good chance you’re staying a head of the audience.  Which is always a good thing.

Now, of course, outlining your play doesn’t mean you have to FOLLOW the outline, but, it does feel like some of the gas is let out of the creation, a little pressure to seek out is lost when you look to the side of your keyboard and there’s a map…  Lewis and Clark didn’t have a map… I’m just saying.

But TV is different than a play.  A play can be any shape, any length.  It can be a single act, it can be any number of acts.  The story and the characters dictate the form.  With TV, depending on your genre, you have a certain number of acts, and you have a limited time.  The story MUST be completed within this time frame.  Or you’re not writing television.  At least, television that someone will take seriously.

Which means I have to outline.  It’s supposed to save me a lot of heart ache.  Like when I’m in the middle of act two and I have no idea what happens next, an outline would be able to tell me.  Or when I’m struggling to make sure all the information for the ending to work on page 60, because it NEEDS to end on page 60, is weaved correctly through out the episode, outlining will make sure I don’t mess it up.

But, I really hate it.  It still feels… unnatural.

Anyone got any ideas on how to loosen it up?  Make it more fun?  Anyone?  Bueller?

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