You start with an idea. then you expand it by answering some questions about your idea. the first and most important question is what is your story about? this is your log logline for the story, be it a short story, novel or screen play. This is where you start. Then you keep asking yourself who are the characters? Then move on to what do they do at this point until you reach a conclusion. Once you do that, you have a broad outline.
There are some writers who just sit down and write their stories without doing this. that’s ok, I’m just telling you what works for me. I complete a form called a beat sheet. Mine is an excel file that I found here. I use it to create a broad outline. I also use it to place scenes my Scrivener file of the story. yes, I’m a plotter – of sorts. I have the broad outline which tells me where I want my story to be at what point. I have a mind-mapping software that lets me plan out the problems my characters will encounter in their journey through the story. I have a number of tools that I use. The mind mapping software I use is Scapple, which can be incorporated into the Scrivener file for easy access while writing the story. I use it to control the flow of my story – still a broad outline. This is how I set up my acts, I use the spreadsheet beat sheet to force my characters to act on beats, and the mind mapping to determine what their options are at every turn.
So in this scenario, the log line is this: character A needs character B to do something. Character A tells Character B to do it or else. Now the else here has to be something that B wants to avoid. That’s the conflict. It doesn’t have to be avoid death. It could just be a case of do it or be humiliated and forever shamed. Pride can be a good motivator. So B sets off on the mission and learns things along the way. However, unless this is a short story, there should be problems encountered. B should not find it all too easy. There should be problems encountered on the way. That’s where the beat sheet comes in. you use the beat sheet to note down the problems and where the character will encounter them. then you use mind mapping to map out all the possible outcomes of the problem. Then you can pick the one you want to move on to the next plot point. this is where plotters may want to delve deeper into the outline, but pantsers can leave off and just write the parts as they occur.