STRUCTURE - DAY OR
STRUCTURE--A QUICK REFERENCE
my screenwriting seminar, Create
I deal extensively
with the creative and structural nature of the screenplay.
That takes two
seven-hour days. Nevertheless, I'm going to lay out the
version here. (Watch for my e-book which comes out later
and which will detail the principles and techniques that I
note that I created some of the terms I will be using here,
they will be unfamiliar to you. Here's a short
CHARACTER - the second most important character in your
the character who carries on a relationship with your
EVENT - the event, sequence of action, that brings the Hero
the Bonding Character into contact and into a relationship
with each other.
EVENT - the event, sequence of action, that radically alters
nature of the Hero/Bonding Character relationship, so that
it becomes very
difficult for them to disengage from each other.
EVENT - the event, sequence of action, that dramatically
raises the stakes in the Hero/Bonding Character
seminar, I tell the writers not to be a "slave to the page
said, almost every successful screenplay accomplishes
developments in a specific order, which just happen to fall
on or near certain pages (assuming you're using standard
the purposes of this article, I'm assuming a 100 page
screenplay. Adjust the approximate page counts if your
script is longer.
The page numbers are only meant to be a rough guide, anyway.
Guiding Principle - almost every screen story is MAINLY
of these is the HERO, the other is the second most dominant
whom I call The BONDING CHARACTER.
In the first 10 pages one of these two characters will be
detailed. Not all movies begin with the Hero. Many begin
with the Bonding
this Bonding Character is the villain, or the monster, or
Somewhere between pages 9 and 18 roughly, an event will
brings the Hero into contact and interaction with the
This event I call the BONDING EVENT.
example, in "Witness" the Bonding Event is a murder
the son of Rachel Lapp (Bonding Character, played by Kelly
event brings Rachel into contact with John Book (the Hero,
It is important to understand that the Bonding Event is
culmination of a sequence of backstory events set in motion
propelled by the evil or negative force in the story,
which I call the
force can be a human villain, a monster or alien, a force of
cartel of evil persons -- in other words the total
combination of outside
forces that the Hero has to contend with in your story..
Following the Bonding Event there are a series of scenes
the developing relationship between the Hero and the Bonding
These scenes lead up to a second important event, the
is the second major event in your screen story. It
introduces a turn of circumstances that alters the
relationship between the two major characters,
so that they cannot easily disengage from each other.
their situation change in a way that forces them to stay in
applies equally to two central characters who have a
hero/villain relationship(Sleeping with the Enemy, Alien),
as to characters who have
a hero/ally relationship (Witness, Terminator), or a
relationship (When Harry Met Sally).
Locking Event occurs somewhere between pages 20 to 35.
Following the Locking Event there is a development that
stakes for the Hero and Bonding Character, the ESCALATING
Often this development is one which raises matters to a
issue. This Escalating Event occurs somewhere between pages
40 to 55.
YOUR HERO TO HELL:
Following the Escalating Event there is a sequence of
which comprise the portion of the script wherein the Hero
accommodate, adjust to, and escape from the situation of
which he or she finds himself or herself.
a moment arrives when the Hero is in such a hellish
he or she starts to go on the offensive and fight back. In
Hero is driven to state of mind like Peter Finch in Network
"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"
sequence typically occupies the pages from 60 to 75 or
PLAN THAT FAILS.
Next there is a sequence of scenes in which the Hero plans
the forces opposing him. The Hero put a plan into motion and
with the opposing force or forces in an effort to defeat
them. This is the
"plan-that-fails" segment of the
This sequence will fall somewhere
around pages 75 to 85. (Again, I caution you not to be a
slave to the page
count. Use page numbers very approximately).
this point, I should mention the issue of how much screen
should be spending on each aspect of the storyline.
Obviously if you find
your Hero being "mad as hell" at page 45, your script is out
a sidebar, in the scripts that I see from writers, a common
is that the writer has skipped either the Locking Event or
the Escalating Event.
That error will throw the whole shape of the story out of
When the Hero's plan has failed and he or she looks to be
defeated, there is a sequence in which he or she discovers
what appears to
be a hidden weakness in the opposing force or forces. This
of course is a
weakness that you the writer built in when you created the
force of your story.
PLAN THAT SUCCEEDS.
This revelation (when the Hero has discovered the hidden
the opposing forces) initiates the "plan-that-succeeds."
ensuing sequence -- the one in which the Hero battles and
the opposition - occupies pages 85 to 95 approximately.
WIN AND THE PRIZE
Following the Hero's victory, there is a final sequence in
which the writer
dramatizes the Hero's new status and situation, and allows
to vicariously savor the Hero's victory, even if it is
bittersweet, which it
covers pages 95-100 approximately.
parting note: You would do
well to analyze a number of your favorite movies to see if
you can recognize
this structure. Try to study the nature of the features I
have outlined so
that you can apply them to your own work. There is a teeming
variety in the
way writers have used this typical structure, and it does
not always jump
out at you when you watch a movie purely for
Send a blank email to:
and find out
TO BEAT THE SECRET TESTS AND
UNOFFICIAL SCREENINGS THAT READERS USE
TO REJECT YOUR SCREENPLAY
You'll also get a free subscription to the
CREATE YOUR SCREENPLAY Newsletter)