The Helpful Reviewer

The Importance of Outlining & Structure

Sunday, October 20, 2019

So much has been said and even criticized regarding screenplay structure. But what people often forget is that structure doesn’t mean arbitrary rules that will make your screenplay feel just like any other. Structure is the basis to help you maximize conflict, theme, development, character, goal and arc. When you start off by outlining your script, making sure all of the pieces are there, then you know you have a good story, without any plot holes, and a character that drives that story, whose goal and the decisions he/she makes coincide with the turning points of the script.

When you continue working on your outline and begin to craft the structure of what will become your screenplay you’re constructing a map for what you’ll be working on. It’s much easier to see where you’re going if you have a clear map. Driving in the dark with no navigation system means you’ll take more than one wrong turn. When you learn structure and know how to use it, then you can always break some rules. But you’ll still be left with a guide that will service your story and make it easier for you to write your script. Imagine building a house with no foundation. It’ll eventually collapse. In order for you to write a solid script, you should work on refining your outline, turning it into a great treatment, utilizing the tools learned from screenwriting structure to make sure your story is at its best possible shape before you begin writing pages. I’ve found that it’s much easier to write, and to enjoy the writing process, when I’ve done great work on my treatment. And ultimately, that’s what we all want: to enjoy the wonders of letting our creative juices flow, so that we’re able to write that one of a kind script that’ll help jump start our careers.

Cody Smart

Cody Smart


Cody is an independent writer and script doctor from Santiago, Chile. She attended the prestigious Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, where she double majored in English Literature and Linguistics, with a minor in Dramatic Literature. She moved to L.A. and got her MFA in Screenwriting at the New York Film Academy, Universal Studios location, while at the same time working at Sony Pictures as a reader and story analyst. She also received two Certificates from UCLA, in Development and Producing for Film and TV.

Aside from her years of experience as a studio reader, she’s a judge for multiple script and film competitions, has written some award-winning short films and feature film scripts, she’s been working as a script analyst and doctor for years helping writers take their scripts to the next level, and is currently the head of the coverage department at Story Data.