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What is your favorite Outline Structure?

I've been learning about Save the Cat and it makes me curious about others since I am used to Hero's Journey. I wonder what everyone's favorite is and why.


Myth Weaver
Well...as the siggy says, the rough is the outline.

I don't outline, and even when I try, it does not stick. I am well aware of the hero's journey, and save the cat, and the three act story structure, and the five act story structure, and while I find them neat to look at and think on, they don't really apply to anything I've written. They just don't factor in when I am writing. It may factor in that someone could take the finished work and say....hey, thats a good three act structure, but it was not conceived that way.

I don't know that I would have the discipline to follow one.


toujours gai, archie
My favorite outline is the one that actually sticks. I'm six novels in and still haven't found it. I'm beginning to suspect the problem lies not with the outline but with the outliner.


Article Team
I dropped this chart before, but the answer is all of them. But I generally use three act structure, Dan Well's 7 point plot structure, with a a lot of stuff from Save the Cat mixed in. The three act structure is for the big picture view. The 7 point plot structure is for the individual plot/subplots.

As you can see from the chart, they're all just different ways to describe the same thing.


toujours gai, archie
I regard story structure and outlines as two related but separate entities. Every one of the structures represented in Penpilot's chart can be outlined. I've never found structures to be terribly helpful before the fact. They are more a tool for categorizing stories already written. A great help, perhaps, in a creative writing course, helping students analyze novels.

But for the writer embarking on a new novel, they're about as helpful as "more cowbell". Alas, outlining--as many here have attested to their own experience--can map out how one intends the story to go, but at some point the story mulishly goes its own way (or goes not at all). My current resolution is, when this inevitably happens, to revise my outline to accord with the new reality and stumble forward from there. FWIW, I'm finding Scrivener's chapter and scene structure to be much more efficient than my old process of Word documents and bits of paper.


Myth Weaver
Well... for me...

Chris Volger - Nope
Blake Snyder - I think that is cat up a tree. Not a match
Nigel Watts - Nope a match
Dan Harmon - not even close
Syd Field - Too basic
George Lucas - I like that its simple.
Paul Galino - I think his might be the closest if I were to go back and outline. Not sure of major twist.
Augustus - Did not use that one ;)
Thomas Boston - Nope
Billy Wilder - Funny, but also nope.
Alfred Hitchcock - Nope
Scientific method - Certainly not
Steve Duncan - Nope

I don't see hero's journey. Anyway? I think the list in incomplete. Or...it maybe that we are always close not no cigar.

For my first book, I think it was like:

Mystery -->More Mystery-->Search for what is true-->Your not ready-->What the hell?-->This is getting rough-->How the hell?-->Ahhh..Fuck-->When did all that happen?-->I need a break.
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toujours gai, archie
Another thing about those. I don't take them so much as prescriptive as being what works for them. The structure for Billy Wilder works, but only if you're Billy Wilder, in which case you're just a genius anyway and why are you looking at a chart? <grin>
I agree with you all. The structure is just to help me get an idea of how the story will go. Even when I wrote my Webnovel's first draft the story ended up taking its own direction as new ideas came to me while writing it.
Is there a difference between story structure and the chart we use with things like Rising Action and Climax? Because those are important.

Ned Marcus

I like the 3 act structure, which is basically a story in 4 parts. I just use a basic version with the main points to help me keep the story moving. I think Larry Brooks and Robert McKee had some good thoughts on this in their books.


My favorite outline is the one that actually sticks. I'm six novels in and still haven't found it. I'm beginning to suspect the problem lies not with the outline but with the outliner.
You should try no outline, just one long creative writing exercise. I'm not saying it'll be good, only that it'll be your favorite.


I think I am religious about it. Some people get an A for their ideas. It usually starts with some kind of friction. Then there is an obvious beginning, middle and end. So there could be a rivalry, and all the thoughts that the character as about it. So, an alpha and omega. Then you must go through the outlines of morality, which can help with conversation. So is this story related to another part or another part. But I have not studied vastly about it, I did try. I also do not agree with grammatical rules, thinking it denotes a pause. I was argumentative on the other end of what I eventually argued about with people from the other angle, but that chart looks a lot like stuff I used to draw up as a kid. It is all so magical, better not remain ignorant, for me.

Mad Swede

I never outline, not ever. I don't even write several drafts. What goes down on the first pass is it. But, I do think the story through in my head before I start to write so I know roughly where it will go and how it will end.


Myth Weaver
Writing without planning is for me like writing without thinking. Doesn't work.
Everyone has their own method of course. I find writing like a endless series of problem solving, which is certainly thinking. Those pesky characters are always in a mess I dont know how they are going to get out of. I've tried to do outlines, but they just dont flow from me.
I'm very different from the others here in that I can't write without an outline. I've tried it, multiple times. But I always come to a point where I have no idea what to write or where to go anymore. I'll start with a few ideas and scenes in my head. I'll write those. And then I just get stuck. When I outline I frontload the thinking part. I'll work out what needs to happen to tell the story I want to tell.

I don't think in terms of acts or specific story structures. Instead, I think in terms of types of plot, and what kind of plot-points go with that. If I have a mystery plot, then I know I'll need to find a few clues, and a few red herrings. If I have a relationship plot, I know I'll need a few scenes showing the two characters getting closer and a few where they have issues. And so on. For most stories, I'll have 3-5 of these types of plots, which gives me a list of scenes that need to happen. I'll order these and take it from there.


toujours gai, archie
I don't so much use an outline as I abuse it. I follow it for a while then abandon it, leaving it to stand by the side of the road shouting at me not to go that way and what do I think I'm doing. Then I return unexpectedly, and for a while it feels important again. We both think we're doing fine when in fact we draw farther and farther apart. I am my own tragic comedy.