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Let's Talk Script Structure

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

Boring? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely.


Overall, structure is probably the hardest part to fully grasp when learning how to write a screenplay. It can often feel restrictive to a new writer but trust us; structure is your friend.


Of course, this is a slight oversimplification as many elements of screenwriting are hard so it's difficult to distinguish who wins the prize of 'the hardest part of screenwriting'... BUT having a strong structure is essential in ensuring that your screenplay is compelling and engaging.


Just like having a sturdy structure for a building is vital to ensure the building is safe to use; planning is a must. You will never find an architect that wants to reinvent a structure so much that they ignore getting the foundations right and risk the integrity of their work. Ain't no point in designing a pretty building at the risk of it collapsing and harming people in its way! But enough about buildings.


Luckily writing a screenplay with bad structure isn't going to harm anyone it will of course harm your chances of progressing as a screenwriter.


Once you really 'get' what structure is there for; it will elevate your storytelling. Screenplay structure will still allow you to create your vision, your own design, your own spin on things, so you don't need to worry about being confined in a restrictive way. But at the end of the day, if you don't understand structure, your script is going to be a mess and everything will come tumbling down...


So to cover the basics, here are the top elements to consider when creating a well-structured script:


Three-Act Structure: The traditional three-act structure is a tried and true formula for crafting a compelling story. The first act establishes the characters, setting, and conflict, the second act complicates the conflict, and the third act resolves it.


Plot Points: Plot points are key moments in the story that drive the narrative forward and keep the audience engaged. These moments should be strategically placed throughout the script to create a sense of progression and tension.


Rising Action: The rising action refers to the series of events that lead up to the climax of the story. This section should be filled with obstacles and conflicts that challenge the characters and keep the audience invested.


Climax: The climax is the turning point of the story, where the conflict reaches its height and the character is faced with a difficult decision. This is the moment that the audience has been waiting for, so it should be both intense and satisfying.


Falling Action: The falling action refers to the aftermath of the climax, where the consequences of the character's decisions are revealed. This section should be used to wrap up loose ends and bring the story to a close.



Pacing: The pace of the screenplay is critical in keeping the audience engaged. The script should have moments of both fast-paced action and quiet introspection, allowing the audience to catch their breath and reflect on the events of the story.


Subplots: Subplots can add depth and complexity to a story, and can help keep the audience engaged even when the main conflict is temporarily resolved. However, it's important to ensure that the subplots are connected to the main story and contribute to the overall narrative.


To summarise, a well-structured screenplay is essential in keeping the audience engaged and invested in the story. By considering these elements, you can craft a script that is both compelling and satisfying. Remember to keep the story moving forward, provide moments of tension and resolution, and maintain a balance between action and introspection. Rest assured, you can absolutely still make your script unique and fresh by using these boundaries to guide you. Once you fully grasp structure, it will make your planning process so much easier.


 

What element of structure do you find the hardest? Let us know if you have any questions and we'll do our best to answer them in upcoming articles.


If you've already downloaded our FREE Tools and Resources, perhaps you'd like to show your support by buying Script Stable a coffee?


 

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