Enter your email address to join our author's mailing list:

Outlining A Short Story

A simple list of steps for developing and outlining the short story you want to write

Determine your story's plot and characters

Think about what kind of story you want to write. Once you have an idea for a plot, write down a list of the characters that will populate your story. Many people prefer to start with the main character, and once he or she is identified, move on to supporting players in the story.

Have a brainstorming session with yourself

Jot down ideas for subplots, character traits, conversations and possible endings to your story. You can use this time to develop the work and embrace new inspiration. The notes you write need not be in any particular order at this time. Just write down whatever ideas come to mind.

Write a few sentences about the theme of your story

Take a moment to write a quick summary of what your story will be about. This can help keep you on track as you begin to put your story to paper. Be sure to condense it into just two or three sentences, anything longer begins to become a story in itself.

Bring detail to the setting for your story

Here, you want to write down several details about your story's locale. Is it set in a small town or a large city? Does the main character live in an apartment or a shack? As you bring detail into your scenes, your imagination takes over and writing about them becomes a natural process for most fiction writers.

Focus on the plot of the story

Outline the events of the plot you have determined. Write down, in list or bullet form, a basic summary of what is to happen to the characters in your story. Make notes of any dialog or details that may come to mind as you list these events.

Breathe life into your characters with words

Here, you want to take your list of characters and begin to develop them using the ideas garnered from the previous steps. Conversations may come to mind, as well as details about the characters' appearances and personalities. Allow yourself to freely explore your characters' thoughts and feelings as you write.

Create the formal outline for your story

Now, you are ready to create the outline for your story. An outline is generally formatted by using a heading for elements such as plot, theme and subject and adding sub-headings, which describe the broader heading in more detail. The actual content of the outline is a personal choice, but should include some basic elements: a conflict, the plot and its details and the conflict's resolution.