Thursday, 17 November 2016

SCREENWRITING FUNDAMENTALS #14 STRUCTURE BEFORE YOU WRITE

The importance of structuring your screenplay before you dive in and write it is far too often overlooked.

You have a general idea of what your film will be about, you have a killer opening scene, so you think, to hell with structuring - let's start writing. 

Why do yourself this incredible disservice? 

Think about ANY other profession. 

Say, building a car. 

You know you want to end up with a car and you've got a killer idea for some new wheels. 

So, what the hell, let's start by building the car from the ground up.

You build the wheels.

Awesome, they work really well.

Now, what?

Well, you need something to attach the wheels to so you create that.

But what happens after that?

I don't know, but I'll figure it out when I get there.

Can't be that hard, can it?

Yes, it obviously can.

Writing a screenplay and building a car are nothing alike - that's a stupid analogy.

Wrong.

I'm illustrating the importance of PLANNING.

If you have a BLUEPRINT for exactly how every part of your car will come together, the creation stage (writing) will be all the more easier. 

Ok then, so how do I structure a script?

This is where a solid knowledge of the Hero's Journey comes into play. 

When I've finished writing the Fundamentals Of Screenwriting - (I have about 50 posts outlined) - then I'm going to write the Fundamentals Of Story. 

This will cover the Hero's Journey.

But to get you started - here's a really rough outline for your film. 
...

The Ordinary World. 0% - 25% of your script.

Here you establish your Main Character (MC). 

Within these pages, setup what the MC’s flaw is. 

Setup the SHADOW - the opposing force in the story.

Setup the MC's goal.

Before page 15 you need to have an inciting incident. (II)

The II is an event that forces the MC to face their FLAW.

The MC's first response will be to try to ignore the II. 

This is called the REFUSAL.

The MC is stuck in their ways. They don't want to CHANGE.

So they will do their best to ignore it. 

Then the CATALYST will occur. 

This is like a second II. This is an event that FORCES the MC to go on the journey.

A MAJOR goal is established.  

The MC sets out to achieve this goal.

When the MC accepts the journey - that is the end of the first act. 

This should occur around the 25% mark of your film.

We then have ACT 2

That breaks into two parts. 

Act 2 part 1 - 25% - 50%

The MC tries to achieve the goal, but because of their FLAW they make the wrong decisions, which leads them into more trouble. 

This leads up to... 

THE MID POINT - 50%

Here the MC changes their approach to the major goal.

OR the major goal changes.

The MC realises they were chasing the wrong goal. 


Act 2 part 2 - 50% - 75%

Though the MC is now going about things in the right way, it's a matter of Too Little Too Late. 

The MC spirals out of control and this leads to...

THE LOWEST POINT - roughly 65%

Here, all hope seems lost. 

The MC (or someone close to them) is sure to die.

The MC reflects and confesses.

They realize that had they not been flawed they would never have ended up in this dire situation.

Because of this confession, the MC is rewarded in some way. 

They suddenly realize that all is not lost. There is still hope.

By using all their cunning and everything they've learned on their journey, they manage to overcome the impossible. 

They escape from this certain death - reborn. 

They are now ready to achieve the major goal - which is most often defeating the SHADOW.


ACT THREE 75% - 97%

Now the MC is no longer flawed - they are able to achieve the major goal. 

DENOUMONT 97% - 100%

We find the MC back in their ordinary world.

Their flaw is tested, but now they are no longer flawed their response to the test is positive. 



That is an incredibly simplistic distillation of The Hero's Journey. 

But being that the HJ is quite complicated - it's good to have a concise version to keep in mind when tackling the structure of your script.

REMEMBER...

The HJ is only a guide.

There is no guaranteed formula to a successful script.

The HJ is the closest match to the majority of successful films. 

Use it as a base to your script and build upon it. 

Create your own uniqueness.