The Outline To Date

I thought it might be good, since I’ve been on vacation in Canada the past few days (all work and no play, right?), to bring everyone up to speed on the outline.  Rick and I made some changes, and as I mentioned in our last post, we’ve given Jinx a change to his character to give him a little more depth and provide more of an explanation of why he wants to leave the small town of Titan, Texas (we’ve come up with a town name – or at least I have. Rick may not agree with it!).

Below is our outline to date.  You may think we outline too much.  I think it’s just enough to provide a guideline for us to get from Point A to Point Z while allowing us flexibility to make changes as we see the story develop.  We don’t want to be hemmed in to a story that isn’t working, and if we need to zig rather than zag because we find ourselves going in a new direction, we’re free to do that and still be fairly true to the outline.  The beauty of an outline is that you can always edit it. You don’t have to be locked in to your first draft.

As a reminder, here is our logline:

A Texas high school senior involved in an accident that caused the death of a popular student struggles to cope with the emotional fallout at a lake house graduation party, and at the same time escape ‘the secret’ he’s been keeping while cutting ties with the small town he desperately wants to leave behind.

And our outline:


SEQUENCE 1 – Status Quo & Inciting Incident

i.  Jimmy ‘Jinx’ McCarthy, 18, rides with his friends, Ellie and Tate, along a country road. They discuss their graduation from earlier that evening and the party they are now traveling to. Jinx is anxious about the party as he looks at the passing woods.

ii. There’s a reveal that, toward the end of the party, they’ll be an opportunity for everyone to share something or stage something for everyone to remember them by. A skit, lip sync, video, anything. Individually or as a group – to commemorate their time together.

iii.  There’s a playful disagreement — the joking kind but a nerve is touched in Jinx. Tate hints at revealing to Ellie how Jimmy got the nickname ‘Jinx.’ Jimmy silences Tate. It’s learned that Tate’s got nothing for the show. Ellie plans a mock cheer for the jocks and cheerleaders that she’s butted heads with for four years. Jinx hints that he has ‘something’ but is unsure if he’ll go with it.

iv.  They arrive at a house with a great view overlooking a lake. The party is in full swing. Jimmy is self-conscious, partially because of Tate’s comment. Ellie reminds him that this is a night to ‘celebrate’ and encourages him to relax. Tate seconds that and declares that he needs to find something to do for the show.

v.   Most of the students ignore Jinx as he arrives, but he steers clear of engaging in games or groups of people — He feels like everyone is either staring at him or judging him. Ellie leaves Jinx and Tate, and talks with some friends, including Lucas, one of the school’s jocks. She explains that she’s going to do this mock cheer and she’d really appreciate his support.

vi.  Jinx looks despondent, and reveals to Tate that he wishes things could be ‘different.’ Thinking that he means with Ellie, Tate questions why he doesn’t go for it.  Jinx ignores the question and lets him know that he’s leaving town soon for college and never looking back. He’s turning a page that should have been turned a while ago. This surprises Tate, who asks why he’s leaving, and Jinx says he has to leave the life he had here. People will always think of him as the one. He hints, “maybe you’ll understand later. Maybe you won’t. I’m still not sure that I do, but I have to be true to myself.”

vii.  Jimmy sees some kids looking at him. He thinks they’re laughing, but in reality, they’re not. There’s another mention, like back in the car, about how ‘Jinx’ got his nickname. Logan, the kid who’s always loud and obnoxious at parties, asks Jinx if he brought his friend, ‘Lucky’ to the party. Logan plans a song parody that he claims will go viral after tonight. The jab at Jinx firmly establishes that Jimmy’s got things in his past that are sensitive and known to these kids but there’s also something Jinx is struggling with. He fumbles with a flash drive. Maybe it’s for the show? Whatever is on it – it’s clearly heavy on Jinx’s mind. Jinx is brought back to reality by Tate, pointing out a beautiful girl, Cassandra, the class flirt.

SEQUENCE 2 – Predicament and Lock-In

viii. Jinx and Tate get drinks and encounter Maggie, a hot cheerleader. Maggie is surprised to see Jinx, and says he shouldn’t be there. Not with anger – just caution. But Jinx takes it as anger and stares at the ground, troubled. Maggie’s boyfriend, Hunter, threatens Jinx. If he doesn’t leave, he’s going to get the crap beat out of him. Jinx is happy to leave, but Ellie confronts Hunter and counters that this isn’t the football field and Jinx isn’t going anywhere. Jinx is happy that Ellie has his back, but tells everyone the truth. He really does want to leave – forever. Hunter tells Jinx: “Great idea. You’ve ruined enough lives here.”

ix.  Hunter proclaims they’ve drawn up a special play to be debuted at the show and says to Jinx: “We thought we could use your help with it but you’d probably ruin it like you do everything else.”

x. The tense situation is broken up by some students throwing water balloons into the crowd. Tate captures it on his phone and is suddenly inspired to build around it and make a short, ‘Sharknado-like’ video to show as part of the festivities. He sets out to build around the footage.

xi.  Hunter fumes after being hit by the balloon, but just as we think that he’s going to charge at Jinx, he takes off after the person who threw it. Crisis averted for the moment.

xii. Ellie pulls Jinx aside. “What’s this about you leaving forever?” They argue. Ellie states that he has obligations to family here, and maybe to friends as well. Jinx counters that staying here will never allow him to do what he really wants to do, be who he wants to be and move on with his life. He’ll always be ‘that guy.’ The one people whisper about. Ellie calls Jinx a coward and storms away. Again, he fumbles with the flash drive, finds a computer inside to test it. He only gets as far as the opening image – Him in front of his parent’s store addressing the camera on a tri-pod. Even the image of it unsettles him and he yanks it free from the computer.

xiii. Jinx walks to the lake and sits on the dock. A few students are there as well, but leave him alone. Tate comes by and sits with him. They talk about the lake — it was their “happy” place. They spent their summers fishing, camping out and water skiing here. Now, Jinx looks at it, and all he can see is regret. Frustrated, Tate gets up. He tells Jinx “it wasn’t your fault. But if you can’t let it go, you might as well jump in your damn lake of regret and stay there.” Jinx calls after Tate – “Don’t go shooting off your mouth if you don’t know something. You’re like those catfish under the water. Can’t see nothing until it’s too late.”

xiv.  Several girls run past Jinx and jump in the water. One of the girls is Cass, who looks back to Jinx and encourages him with a look to join them. Jinx ignores her, and she swims away to join the others in the water.

xv. Hunter talks to other students about Jinx. How it’s time to set things right. It’s apparent that revenge is on their minds. Maybe they will use him for that special ‘play’ they’ve drawn up for the show.


SEQUENCE 3 – First Obstacle & Raising the Stakes

i.   Jinx goes back to look for Tate, ready to leave the party. Tate is dashing around, grabbing footage and staging things to add to his video. Not seeing Tate, Jinx ventures about. People are enjoying themselves.

ii.  One girl, a cute, girl-next-door type, Savannah, stops Jinx, asks him where he’s going to college. Texas, he says. Me, too, she responds. She’s excited because she’ll be able to get help on her freshman history classes. “You saved my ass on a half dozen exams junior year.” Another student with her pipes in. “Saved me too.” Jinx isn’t sure how to respond, but before he can figure it out, the girls are off to chat with someone else.

iii.  Jinx stops in front of a mantle above the fireplace, where there are various framed pictures. Several of them are of Lucas and Maggie, some with Lucas’ parents. It’s obvious the house belongs to Lucas’ family. We land on one important picture: It happens to be Jinx with four other people: one is Lucas. The others are Ellie, Maggie and a guy we haven’t seen yet (Nick). They look happy in the picture. Not a care in the world. Jinx is transfixed by the picture.

iv.  From behind Jinx a voice arises: “Remember where that pic was taken?.” Jinx turns, and it’s Lucas. Lucas sees that Jinx is troubled by the picture. “San Antonio,” says Jinx. “I remember you were surprised by how small the Alamo actually was.” Jinx agrees. “I imagined it being larger than life.” Lucas: “We always tend to imagine things to be bigger than they really are.” Lucas follows up with: “I miss hanging out with you. Let’s get together this summer, okay?” Jinx mumbles a half-hearted, “sure.”

v.  Lucas leaves the house and runs into Hunter and his goons. There’s an argument. Hunter wants to know if Lucas is going to be ‘in’ on the play for the show. Lucas makes it clear that he’s not participating. His football life is done. Hunter mentions to his guys to watch out for Lucas. He might get in the way of their plans.

vi. Music is playing and students are dancing. Logan boasts that the song parody will become a party staple for decades to come. Lucas asks Ellie to dance and she agrees. As they dance, Jinx watches them from the house through a window. It’s a reflection and Jinx sees his own as well. Once again, he feels like he’s on the outside looking in. He takes out the flash drive and is about to throw it away but he’s interrupted by Cass, who walks past, sits on a couch and beckons Jinx. He goes over and sits down, ever the polite guy.

SEQUENCE 4 – First Culmination/Midpoint

viii. After the dance is over, Lucas tells Ellie about the picture. Elly says that was the trip where Nick almost got ticketed for underage drinking and Jinx talked the cop out of it. As they talk, Ellie folds a napkin, making a flower out of it. She attaches it to a straw and sticks it in Lucas’ drink. “What’s this?” asks Lucas. Ellie isn’t even aware she was doing it. “Oh, that. It’s a flower for your drink. Jinx used to always be annoyed that the Mexican restaurant that didn’t put a flower or umbrella in my virgin pina coladas and so he would make me one out of a napkin. Guess I just picked up on it.”

ix. Back in the house, Cass makes small talk with Jinx. When the small talk stalls, she gets more direct: If you’re not going to make the first move, I guess it’s up to me. This night’s about making memories. Maybe you ought to create a new memory of me that you can take with you,” and slides her hand over to his leg. Jinx is uncomfortable.

x. Hunter watches Cass and Jinx from across the room. Cass and Hunter’s eyes meet, and they share a conspiratorial smile. Hunter slips away, and as Cass slides in closer to Jinx, he extricates himself from the situation, embarrassed.

xi. Hunter makes his way outside and finds Ellie. “There’s talk you’re going to make the football team look bad at the show. Hope it’s just talk.” Ellie protests – “Get over yourself, Hunter. There’s no Varsity in life. You’ll be drinking your minimum wage every Friday night with your besties.” But inwardly she fumes. Who told him?

xii. In the house, Jinx asks someone where the restroom is. Someone tells him, “down the hall on the left”. There are several doors on the left, and Jinx picks one. Unfortunately, it’s not the bathroom, but a spare room in the lake house where Lucas’ dad, Paul, is running on a treadmill. Jinx is embarrassed by the interruption, but Jeremy waves him in eagerly. Paul stops the treadmill, and Jinx apologizes for the intrusion. Paul says he needed to stop anyway. Jokes that he can run and run, but he never gets anywhere. Jinx speaks to Paul in double entendres about how he feels like he’s been ‘running’ for years – and ‘you get so tired, you just want to stop.’

xiii.  Paul reminds Jinx about how Jinx helped Lucas get a job with his parents’ business. Kept him away from some bad people at a time in his life when Lucas really needed it. Jinx says he just wanted someone fun to work with during the summer. Maybe it worked out for both of them.  Paul asks about his parents’ business and Jinx fidgets for a response. “I get it. Not your thing.” Jinx is surprised. “So what are you doing instead?” “Going to college,” Jinx replies. “And?” “We’ll see.” Paul reminds Jinx that no matter where he goes, he needs to remember where he came from, because it’s made him who he is.  Still, Paul continues, “This place is a black hole. Unless you get far enough away from it, you’re sucked in permanently.”

xix.  After their discussion, Jinx heads outside, and sees Hunter and his gang grab Tate, who struggles mightily, but they take him to the dock and throw him far out in the water.  Jinx rushes down to the dock as he sees what is happening, and jumps in after Tate, who has sunk under water. After a tense couple of moments, Jinx emerges with Tate.  After he’s helped from the water, Jinx toes up with Hunter.  “What the hell is wrong with you?  He can’t swim.” Hunter looks confused at first. Jinx follows up: “You could’ve killed him.” “I guess you know all about killing people,” Hunter retorts. Things are about to get physical between them but the rest of the jocks turn – Logan is on the mic and the crowd is invited to gather round – the senior show is about to start.

After I put all this together, Rick and I exchanged emails about a new dynamic to this outline — these are the things that happen when you’re writing with a partner.  Rick will generate an idea, and throw it at me after we’ve gotten to this point, and I’ll counter with something and throw another idea back at him.  Consequently, we keep generating new ideas and new obstacles for our characters, and thus the outline will continue to evolve.  If you have any thoughts on how the outline is going, please let us know!

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