The Expanded Scene Breakdown !

The Expanded Scene Breakdown is a 20 to 40+ page point by point, step by step, scene by scene outline of the entire screenplay in prose form using dialogue, character development, action, etc.

The Expanded Scene Breakdown is an essential way to see the entire story before you reach the screenplay stage, as plotting is like a Jigsaw Puzzle !

Orson WellesCitizen Kane


Here is Screenplay Writing’s 5-step process. It can be applied on a script, a novel or any kinds of story forms :

Step One – The Idea
Step Two – The Mini-treatment
Step Three – The Scene Breakdown (or Step Outline)
Step Four – The Expanded Scene Breakdown
Step Five – The Script

Follow it and your story will be exponentially better than if you went straight to the Script.

How do you reach the expanded scene breakdown?

1. Write the story idea in a page or two.

2. Structure the mini-treatment in four pages, in three acts, using prose. Focus on the big events, as if you’re speaking to a five-year with a short attention span.

3. Break the entire story down into one-line scene headings, showing where it happens and the main action of the scene with the reason for the scene’s being always feeding the context of the story. For each scene ask two questions: Who’s in the scene and what’s the central action?

Example: Joan tells Revi that her husband knows about their affair.

That’s it. One line per scene. Use the same four-page breakdown you used for the mini-treatment: Act I on Page 1; Act II on Pages 2 and 3; Act III on page 4. By doing this step you’ll see a lot of logic holes that need to be filled, scenes you need, scenes you don’t need. You’re starting to move in on the story, from a most exacting point of view.

4. Once you get this down, you begin the Expanded Scene Breakdown. Start with the Scene Breakdown from the beginning of Act I. Begin with the first scene heading and expand it, in prose, building in details, character, dialogue, atmosphere, and location, whatever you feel the scene needs. Load it up. When you get to the actual writing of the scene in the script you’ll have a lot to choose from.

Taking one scene after another, work your way through the entire script. This step is important for another reason. If you jump too quickly into the actual writing of the screenplay, the work on the page becomes more permanent. The writer is less inclined to change something already written in screenplay stone. With the Expanded Scene Breakdown, you’re one step away from the screenplay.

Advice from The Story Departement


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