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How to construct a screenplay

I had a very good book recommended to me recently for the screenwriting neurotic, which teaches the most straightforward and correct way to construct a successful screenplay. It was extremely helpful and glad to recommend it for any budding writers. But. I came across this video and found it very interesting how different writers approach constructing a screeplay.

 
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mlesemann

Staff Member
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I write one way when I'm hired to write a screenplay about X for someone. In that case, I do a detailed outline, usually 15 to 20 pages - all statements of action, no dialogue. That makes it easy to discuss moving things around, where to add or take away something, etc.

When I'm writing for myself, I start with a main character and an idea, and I start to write. I have a general idea of the story I want to tell, but develop it as I go.

In both cases, I COMPLETELY agree that things change as you write because you get to know the characters and what they would and wouldn't do.

And sometimes the ending completely changes from what was intended - even when it was thoroughly outlined - because I realize that person A just wouldn't do thing X.
 
It's interesting because I think every story has ITS OWN STRUCTURE. Having said that? Most stories (even my own) don't deviate that much from what I would call a traditional story structure. I don't care what anyone says... Structure is not formula. It's simply how and in what order you put the pieces of the story together.

I have my own 4 Act, 24 Plot Point Structure. It may sound long but I assure you... It's not. All I have to do is plug in a story element or incident into it wherever I think it fits. A very short sentence. The shorter, the better actually. I created the 24 Plot Points only because there are times I come up with an idea for a story and even if I jot it down somewhere? After a couple of years and revisiting it? I might forget what it was all about. With my 24 Plot Points, I can plug in ANY ideas I might have about the story into whatever plot point number I think works for them. I created a PDF with fields in order to do this. That way, I can open the PDF anytime... Plug in the plot points, save the PDF with either a title or file name that will help me remember what I've done here even more.

What I like about my particular system is that it's short... I hate outlines. I don't even have to have all 24 Plot Points thought out before I start writing. The more they're filled in is not necessarily better for me personally as my characters do eventually come alive and take over the storytelling.

When that happens? My structure changes... I allow it to change because the characters dictate it. Whatever it takes in order to get the first draft out of me.

Once that first draft's completed however... I often go back to my structure and bang things back into place because quite frankly? They NEED it.

You have to trust the fact that most story structures are very much alike... Even if they're non-linear, they usually follow a linear structure of some kind. Usually 3 Act Structure, from my experience. Even when my characters take over? I find myself moving things around because when it comes down to it? More emotion is elicited from having moved story elements (in my case, plot points) back to traditional story structure, which is what you're usually going for.
 
I remember your structure form years ago when you talked about it!
It's evolved a lot and keeps evolving because I keep learning... LOL.

EDIT: In fact? In my humble opinion, anyone who wants to become a screenwriter or even a filmmaker who directs their own writing needs to learn about story structure. I've seen way too many no-budget indie films that would have been SO MUCH BETTER had they just moved things around so as to elicit more emotion from an audience. If you want to become a professional screenwriter? It's even more important because no matter what structure you end up using? You're going to have to be able to TRANSCRIBE the story structure you used into traditional 3 Act Story Structure when it comes to pitching, general meetings, etc. The industry can only talk traditional 3 Act Structure so you need to know it backwards and forwards.
 
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