Monday, January 31, 2005  

Script Structure - Basic Plot Points

Let me begin by saying. I'm an amateur. Enough said.

What amazes me is that so many other amateur screenwriters try to tackle the craft without the basics. I base my opinion on the many scripts that I've read at peer review sites like TriggerStreet, Zoetrope, and Helium. If you're just starting out like I am, peer to peer reviews can be very helpful. As long as you take criticism with a grain of salt you'll learn a lot about you're writing. After all, how much can another amateur, who knows less, equal, or even a little more than you, tell you what's wrong with your script? They're in, for lack of a better cliché, the same boat you are.

Typing away at the keyboard scene after scene without the basic structure -- just shoot yourself in the foot now. The reviews will be more painful than having a slug of steal split your piggy toe in two. Trust me.

So you have a great idea for a script. The piles of notes next to your computer have taken roots and are ready to bloom. If it's your first, second or even third script, now is the time to fully understand the basic plot points.

The following descriptions and explanations, by no means, are as solid as the stone-carved commandments, but rather a rudimentary guide for plot pointing out a 120-page script.

SETUP: Page 1 - 12
Define the main character/s, the place, time, mood, point of view. What's the story about? Whose story is it? What does the hero want, and who or what is stopping the hero from getting it? What happens next?

QUESTION: Page 3
What is the central question, the theme, the main issue the movie is going to resolve?

NEW OPPORTUNITY: Page 12
Something that happens to steer events in a particular direction.

CHOICE OF PATH: Page 12 - 30
Based on the new opportunity, the hero begins taking steps toward a general goal.

CHANGE OF PLANS/TURNING POINT: Page 30
What event throws hero a curve, forces response or reaction, sets the hero's plan/goal, defines the hero's new pathway for Act II? General goal(s) become specific.

PROGRESS: Page 30-60
Plans to achieve goals are working. There are conflicts but things are going pretty well. Hero is changing, circumstances are changing and stakes get higher.

MOVING FORWARD METAPHOR: Page 45
A small scene with symbolic overtones, showing the character's growth, and giving us a clue to the resolution

POINT OF NO RETURN: Page 60
Something happens so that hero, if pushing forward and committing, against all odds, to goal, cannot return to where he/she was in the setup. Sometimes, here the external goal has become internal/personal, and pursuing it will change the hero.

POST-POINT MOMENT: Page 60+
A lighter moment, which typically follows the POINT OF NO RETURN. Doesn't further action, but shows how hero is changing, then obstacles start to escalate

COMPLICATIONS AND HIGHER STAKES: Page 60 - 90
The goal becomes even harder to achieve. It looks like it will take everything to do this, harder than thought, but hero wants it more because it's harder.

ALL HOPE IS LOST/ MAJOR SETBACK/THE BIG GLOOM/ GIVING UP POINT: Page 90
The greatest setback. It appears that hero may not achieve goal, hero about to give up, but something happens that changes everything, an event that gives a chance at a goal hero didn't know he/she had

FINAL PUSH ONE SPECIFIC ACTION: Page 90 - 108
Final intensification of the hero's pursuit of the goal, which usually becomes focused here into achieving one specific action. An event occurs that educates the hero, and starts the resolution. Hero may be getting something more or different from what he/she set out to get, hero has learned something and is changed by it, a new complications sets in?

CLIMAX: Page 108 - 114
Hero is close, can see goal, final obstacle, has to give up everything in pursuit of the goal, crisis point where all is in jeopardy, final moment, all or nothing . Hero achieves or fails to achieve the goal, and outer motivation is clearly resolved, often through confrontation with a "nemesis."

THE END Page 114-120:
What is the outcome, resolution, hero's new life?

3 Comments:

At 9:18 AM,Anonymous T.L. said...

Excellent outline. Although I have a great story, it does help to be reminded of structure.

 
At 4:24 AM,Anonymous Anonymous said...

let's hear your great story...

 
At 5:49 PM,Anonymous Danny Montenegro said...

Does this fall within the Syd Field paradigm?