Thursday, December 04, 2008  

Story and Screenplay Structure

Structure is beneficial to creative output in a number of ways. There are at least two types of structure, work processes and frameworks:

a) Work processes such as incremental production produce more output than a "do your best" approach. Writing four pages a day completes a words-on-paper first draft screenplay in one month. A "do your best" or "waiting for inspiration" approach can take months or years.

b) Work processes such as separating creative from critical thinking allow the build up of large idea pools using creative thinking and the reduction of those pools into feasible ideas using critical thinking.

c) Frameworks reduce complex problems into their component intellectual parts. For example, story structure can be reduced to three or four acts or The Hero With A Thousand Faces (Campbell, 1973). Frameworks increase output by reducing complex problems into smaller, more manageable problem solving exercises. In screenwriting, frameworks tell the writer where to start, where to finish, what to write and what should be happening at a particular stage of the story.

Additionally, a structured approach improves performance in a number of ways, including:

a) Simply being prolific improves performance. The single best creative product tends to appear at that point in the career when creator is being most prolific. Experience refines knowledge and methodology towards optimal levels.

b) Engagement in the tasks results in problem identification and triggers the mind into working on those problems at various cognitive levels. Problems incubate until answers become apparent. Increasing the incidence and frequency of problem identification increases the incidence and frequency of insight. In other words, simply engaging in the project generates good ideas, insights and inspiration, which is why screenwriters often find that their best ideas come to them when they are in the middle of writing a screenplay.

c) Increased problem identification (coupled with motivation) increases the incidence of solution seeking, through active search for stimuli and intellectual cross pollination through networks and collaboration.

by Kal Bishop

Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays.


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At 6:26 AM,Anonymous Chicago Roman Shades said...

I love your suggestions. I am a perfectionist and sometimes perfection overtakes productivity.
That situation can be fatal to the writer. A writer is nothing unless he is producing something. In order to be successful, I agree sometimes you just have to keep writing, even if it's painful. In most cases, something is better than nothing and something can always be reworked and used for future inspiration. On that same note, think of director Ingmar Bergman or Woody Allen. They have many bad films or less-than-desirable films. Still, what would film be without Wild Strawberries or Annie Hall? Anyway, I loved reading your blog. Good work. :)