You have already established the universe, plot, characters, and moral grey area of your story. However, you are having a challenge piecing everything together into a cohesive story that will keep your readers’ attention. That’s where a story outline comes in.
In this article, we define what a story outline is and provide 6 short story outline examples to give you a better understanding of this concept. Let’s get started.
What Is a Story Outline
A story outline is also referred to as a road map. This is a file with crucial planning information on the storyline, structure, events, characters, situations, and other aspects of your novel, which makes the story outline the framework of your story.
Why Is an Outline Important in Story Writing
A good novel outline will give your story direction and a clear path to articulate your ideas. Instead of spending time wondering what will happen next, your outline specifies the most important events and how each scene builds to the next one. You will have a clear idea of how the scenes unfold so you can plan better:
- Have a reference to keep your timeline straight.
- A gentle reminder of where you want the story to go.
- Reminds you to build your character arc.
- Track how your characters are feeling and the emotional goal to achieve in each scene.
- Save time in coming up with ideas.
6 Story Outline Examples
The importance of an outline in telling a story cannot be overlooked. It keeps your head high and helps you have a better plan. Here are some story outline examples to give you motivation in writing your own:
Story Outline Example - House of Cards
House of Card is the story of a ruthless and ambitious politician, Frank Underwood. He uses all means possible, including betraying his friends and breaking the law to become a top political leader.
The story starts with Frank being the House Majority Whip. The then President Garret Walker promises Frank that he will become Secretary of State if he supports him in the upcoming election. Unfortunately, Walker does not honor his promise after being elected. This prompts Frank to plot his revenge by manipulating people to orchestrate President Walker’s downfall. Eventually, Frank becomes the Vice President of the United States. With these major achievements, he starts crafting how he can become the President.
His efforts pay off, and he comes the president. However, this comes at a cost and he is not fully satisfied with the accomplishments. He has already sacrificed his soul and relationships. His major challenge is keeping his power and making sure he is always ahead of his enemies.
Story Outline Example - Stranger Things
Stranger Things is the story of a group of friends who are investigating the disappearance, Will Byers. The search uncovers a dark government conspiracy that involves supernatural forces.
Will Byers is a young boy who disappears from his home in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. His friends, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas begin to investigate his disappearance. Their investigations led them to discover that Will was transported to another dimension called the Upside Down. As more information emerges, they team up with Will's mother, Joyce, and the town's police chief, Jim Hopper in hopes of finding Will sooner.
The investigation reveals more about the Upside Down and the creatures that inhabit it. They also discover that the government is involved in a secret project that studies the Upside Down. The story follows the thrilling race by the friends in hopes of finding Will before it's too late.
Eventually, the friends find Will in the Upside Down. They are successful in defeating the Demogorgon, the main antagonist of the Upside Down and bring Will back to the real world.
Story Outline Example - The Avengers
The Avengers is the story of the earth’s mightiest heroes. They must learn to fight as a team if they are to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity.
Loki has mischievously stolen the Tesseract, a powerful artifact, and is invading Earth. To protect the earth, the Avengers assemble to stop him and learn that Loki is working for Thanos, who is a powerful alien warlord. Thanos is threatening Loki to invade earth with the promise he will be given control over the planet if he becomes successful.
The Avengers has to come to fight Loki and Thanos forces who have now invaded New York City. They eventually succeed and realize that they need to work together if they are to protect Earth from future threats. To keep this commitment, the Avengers, form a team that will defend the earth. They vow to protect the planet from all kinds of threats.
Short Story Outline Example - The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea is a story of an old Cuban fisherman, Santiago. He has gone 84 days without catching a fish and his only friend, Manolin, a young boy continues to bring him food and help prepare the gear. On the eighty-fifth day, Santiago decides to set out alone in his skiff and break his unlucky streak.
Santiago sails far out into the Gulf Stream, where he hooks a giant marlin. The fish is much larger and stronger than him and it drags him for three days and nights. Although Santiago fights the marlin with all his might, he is slowly worn down.
After the long fight with the marlin, Santiago finally reels it in and lashes it to the side of his boat. At this point, he is exhausted and battered. However, he breathes a sigh of relief for being victorious. He starts the long journey home, towing the marlin behind him. Unfortunately, the blood in the water attracts sharks that begin to circle the boat. He fights them off for hours, but he is overwhelmed.
Santiago arrives back at the shore with only the skeleton of the marlin remaining. He feels so disappointed in the outcome, but he is proud of his accomplishment. Manolin and the other fishermen gather around amazed by the size of the marlin's skeleton. They admire Santiago for his courage and determination.
Short Story Outline Example - Moon and Sixpence
In the Moon and Sixpence, a young successful businessman abandons his wife and child to become a painter in Paris. The story takes us through his struggles as a younger painter in foreign land and how he found his course, but ended dying early.
Charles Strickland used to live as a wealthy banker in London. Despite being a successful young man, he is highly disappointed in life. Charles desires a new life where he can pursue his secret passion in art. He decides to leave his family behind and moves to Paris where he enrolls in arts schools. However, transitioning to the new land proves more difficult than expected. Charles struggled to find a footing in his new-found passion, but remains steadfast,
Eventually, he finds a style works for him. He created multiple artworks and became a successful painter. Unfortunately, he is still a solitary and enigmatic figure who ends up dying young age. Nonetheless, his paintings are considered masterpieces.
Novel Outline Example - The Necklace
- Mathilde Loisel, a middle-class woman, dreams of a luxurious lifestyle.
- She is invited to a fancy party, but she has nothing to wear.
- Her husband, Georges, gives her his savings to buy a new dress.
- Mathilde also borrows a diamond necklace from her rich friend, Madame Forestier.
- Mathilde has a wonderful time at the party, but she loses the necklace.
- She and Georges frantically search for it, but they cannot find it.
- Mathilde decides to replace the necklace with a new one, which costs them a fortune.
- Mathilde and Georges work hard to pay off their debt.
- They move to a shabby apartment and live a frugal life.
- Mathilde becomes bitter and resentful.
- One day, Mathilde meets Madame Forestier again.
- Madame Forestier reveals that the necklace that Mathilde lost was fake.
- Mathilde is shocked and ashamed.
- Mathilde realizes the error of her ways.
- She and Georges finally pay off their debt and return to their former lifestyle.
- Mathilde is now grateful for what she has.
- Mathilde and Georges live a happy and contented life.
- Mathilde has learned the importance of appreciating what she has and not being materialistic.
How to Write High-quality Story Outlines
Every outline is unique, and depends on the story you want to give. You may write a summary and have a more detailed outline. You may also try the bookend method or Rand Ingermanson’s method to approach the craft. Whichever the approach, your outline should provide a basic feel of the story’s direction.
Here are a few tips that will help you craft an effective story outline:
- Map out the key scenes.
- Add high-level details for each scene.
- Get the sequence of events right.
- Add an imagery or video.
- Ask for feedback or ideas to improve the storyline.
- Finalize your draft.
One of the easiest ways to craft a good outline for your story is to use Boardmix. The AI Assistant and mind mapping feature will make your story outline writing a simple task. Simply go to the AI Assistant on Boardmix, then click Generate mind map. After that, you'll get a complete outline of any stories. You can also create the outline starting from scratch, adding all the important elements using the provided tools on the left sidebar. Go ahead and create your own masterpiece!