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Scene Outline

Scene Outline for Television

As learned in the Storyline Tutorial, most episodes of television have at least 3 storylines, but can have more or fewer depending on the overall approach to the show.  Please refer to the Storyline Tutorial if you are unclear about the way storylines for television are handled in Open Screenplay.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: Here the word “Act” refers to story structure Acts 1, 2, and 3 – which mean beginning, middle, and end of a story, NOT the meaning of the word “Act” in television scripts which is the chunk of material between commercial breaks.  In Open Screenplay we use the term “Act” when referring to story structure and “tvAct” when referring to the chunk of time between commercial breaks.   

Here is the general format for a Scene Outline for Television:

Storyline A

Act 1

Scene 1

Scene 2

…and so on

Act 2

Scene 1

Scene 2

…and so on

Act 3

Scene 1

Scene 2

…and so on

Storyline B

Act 1

Scene 1

Scene 2

…and so on

Act 2

Scene 1

Scene 2

…and so on

Act 3

Scene 1

Scene 2

…and so on

Storyline C and any further Storylines

Here is an example for the first scene or two of each storyline in the episode of The Big Bang Theory, season 6 episode 16 entitled “The Tangible Affectation Proof.” 

Storyline A – Leonard tries to have a good Valentine’s Day with Penny but she messes it up.

Act 1

Scene 1

INT. PENNY’S APARTMENT - NIGHT At dinner Leonard proposes a Valentine’s Day celebration but Penny does not respond enthusiastically.

Scene 2

INT. HOWARD’S LAB Leonard tells Howard he’s taking Penny to a nice restaurant for Valentine’s Day.

Scene 1

INT. PENNY’S APARTMENT - NIGHT At dinner Leonard proposes a Valentine’s Day celebration but Penny does not respond enthusiastically.

Scene 2

INT. HOWARD’S LAB Leonard tells Howard he’s taking Penny to a nice restaurant for Valentine’s Day.

[Followed by remaining Acts and Scenes for Story Line A] 

Storyline B – Sheldon delegates getting a Valentine’s Day present for Amy to his research assistant

Act 1

Scene 1

INT. HALLWAY – NIGHT Sheldon tries to avoid Amy’s question of what they’re doing for Valentine’s Day.

Scene 1

INT. HALLWAY – NIGHT Sheldon tries to avoid Amy’s question of what they’re doing for Valentine’s Day.

Act 2

Scene 1

INT. SHELDON’S OFFICE – DAY Sheldon orders his assistant Alex to research a gift for Amy for Valentine’s

Scene 1

INT. SHELDON’S OFFICE – DAY Sheldon orders his assistant Alex to research a gift for Amy for Valentine’s

[Followed by remaining Acts and Scenes for Story Line B]

Storyline C – Howard and Bernadette argue over his shirking household chores for video games.

Act 1

Scene 1

INT. COMIC BOOK STORE - DAY After a call from Bernadette, Howard tells Raj that Bernadette has been stressed.

Scene 1

INT. COMIC BOOK STORE - DAY After a call from Bernadette, Howard tells Raj that Bernadette has been stressed.

[Followed by remaining Acts and Scenes for Story Line C]

Storyline D – Raj organizes a Valentine’s Day party for singles at Stuart’s comic book store. 

Act 1

Scene 1

INT. COMIC BOOK STORE - DAY Raj asks Stuart if he has anything going on for Valentines’ Day, then suggests they throw a party at the store for singles.

Scene 1

INT. COMIC BOOK STORE - DAY Raj asks Stuart if he has anything going on for Valentines’ Day, then suggests they throw a party at the store for singles.

[Followed by remaining Acts and Scenes for Story Line D]

Scenes That Touch On More Than One Storyline

Note that for the The Big Bang Theory example above, in the produced episode the first scenes for both Storyline C and Storyline D take place in the same scene – both storylines are part of the scene in the comic book store. This is an example of how a single scene can touch on multiple story lines in screenwriting.  The scene first addresses Story Line C, then moves on to Story Line D.  But in the Scene Outline we need to delineate each as the first scene (and location) in their respective story lines. 

Why? 

The main reason is simply that we need to know what the first plot point for each storyline is.  No matter if that first plot point requires its own scene or shares a scene with other storylines, we need to identify it. 

Another reason is that outlining in this way is easier than trying to cover everything happening across multiple storyline in a single Scene Summary.  Basically, it helps organize our entire screenplay. 

A future version of Open Screenplay will have a “Merge Scenes” function for the Scene Outline.  For now, both scenes will be listed separately in this phase. For more information about how they can be ordered in the story, check out the Form Tutorial.

Scene Outlines are not only helpful, they’re fun too!  Coming up with scene ideas is a blast, whatever the story may be.  So enjoy!