There are two basic ways to begin a story: Outline or Freeform. In this Lab, you will learn about each one and then decide which story starter works best for you.


Many writers outline their stories. And even those who write free form also outline every now and then. What is an outline? An outline is like a map that helps you find your way through your story.

Writing a story is hard work. Writing an outline (a story map) works to give you direction. An outline for a story might look something like this:

  1. 1.      Cinderella’s mother dies (opening)
  2. 2.      Cinderella’s father marries another woman.
  3. 3.      Then Cinderella’s father dies.
  4. 4.      Cinderella’s stepmother is mean to Cinderella.
  5. 5.      Then the evil stepmother makes Cinderella a servant girl.
  6. 6.      Cinderella, scrubs the floors, cooks, washes, and mends for the stepmother and two step sisters.
  7. 7.      Meanwhile the King announces a royal ball for all the eligible young maidens of the land….


Freeform writing is what everyone knows how to do best. You think of a story and then you want to just write it. That’s what it means to write freeform. It can be harder to write freeform. Sometimes you get stuck and don’t know where to go. This is called writer’s block. You may have written three whole pages, but after those three pages you can’t think of anything else to write. In Freeform writing you just write and hope for the best.

Freeform writing might look something like this:

Once upon a time little Ella loved her father and mother very much. But one day her mother tripped over a fork and died. Ella’s father married another woman. Her name was Drool. Drool had two daughters name Spittle and Spattle….

Small hand writing by Pink Sherbet Photography

Beginning Your Story

You don’t just have to just use outlining or freeform. I know several writers who use both. However, the most important part to writing a story is putting ideas down. You can put them down in a small outline and then write freeform, or you can begin with the very simple, “Once upon a time.” If you want to write a story, then do one really simple thing- write.

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