John Truby on the 3 act structure



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  • John Truby on the 3 act structure

    Pretty interesting rant against the very idea of the 3-act structure at:

  • #2
    Indeed. Thanks for posting the link, Steve.


    • #3
      Works for me.



      • #4
        I just love it when someone aptly uses the Emperor's New Clothes analogy, and to such good (and truly helpful) purposes. Muchas Gracias, Stevo.


        • #5
          Interesting 1st 3 paragraghs

          ...50,000 scripts are written every year.. Why do so many writers fail?

          ...scripts do not sell because the writer has not written a good script.

          <!--EZCODE BOLD START--> I have taught and worked with literally thousands of writers.<!--EZCODE BOLD END--> <!--EZCODE BOLD START--> ...Those who failed<!--EZCODE BOLD END--> did not lack brains, heart or will. In every case, failure <!--EZCODE BOLD START--> was due to the lack of training and professional technique<!--EZCODE BOLD END-->
          So does this mean all his thousands of students sell scripts or that he doesn't know to teach professional technique?

          The rest of the article was interesting but I'm not sure the screenplay instruction is to strictly follow a 3-act stageplay format. I find most films have the classic 3-act structure in the background but it does not adhere to three equally timed acts.


          • #6
            Re: Interesting 1st 3 paragraghs

            Good point, Rat. It should probably say "and then they took my class and still didn't sell a script."

            But I still think he's one of the smarter "gurus" out there.


            • #7

              Truby is being completely self-serving, using scare tactics to lure confused newbies into his expensive course.


              • #8
                Three Act structure rules!

                From John Truby's piece: "Great screenwriting is more difficult than brain surgery."

                Aside from the absurdity of that statement, let's consider the source.

                John Truby has ONE writing credit at, as a writer for the TV series "21 Jump Street" in 1987.

       great screenwriting REALLY that difficult...or is it just difficult for John Truby?

                Your pal,


                • #9
                  Re: Interesting 1st 3 paragraghs

                  Edit - (Aside from the obvious gimmicky intent of Mr. Truby, I think he raises a few good points.)

                  I take it that "professional technique", to some extent is acquired by the artist with time and experience, and can not conveniently be taught. You can teach the basics and some philosophy on writing that will lead to the technique, though. But learning how to really write takes time.

                  Also, I believe some variation of the three act structure will always find itself in the foundation, but one has to see and go further, much further than that "basic formula". Easier said than done, especially when one hasn't come to enough realisations about writing yet to be able to autonomously deviate from the popular, rigid structure everyone takes as gospel.

                  There is also life outside Hollywood.


                  • #10
                    The amazing thing about these script "instructors" is that their resumes usually state, "so-and-so has written for television and film," but never list any specific credits.

                    A unproduced screenwriting guru can only teach you one to be an unproduced screenwriting guru.


                    • #11
                      **A unproduced screenwriting guru can only teach you one to be an unproduced Screenwriting guru. **

                      Then forget Aristotle. There's no eveidence that he ever even tried to write a dramatic work, let alone a successful one.

                      I don't find the 3-Act strucutre particularly useful due to many of the reasons that Truby outlines. I also agree with Truby's assertion about genre being an important (an often neglected) element for new writers to consider and study.


                      • #12
                        Structure can be applied to all genres

                        I believe that STAR WARS, CAST AWAY, WITNESS, and FALLING DOWN all follow the "Syd Field" (yeah, I said it--Truby wouldn't name names, but I'm no shrinking violet) Screenplay Structure. Then again, so do TOY STORY, ROCKY, CHINATOWN, SPEED, and BEING JOHN MALKOVICH. Not to mentions hundreds of other films made throughout the years. Same basic structure, plenty of genres to choose from.

                        Strip a human down to the bones and you can't tell much difference between one person and the other, except for approximate height and sex. Isaac Newton pretty much resembles Newt Isaacs, the village idiot, at the very core. They're both recognizable as humans, but it's what you add afterward which determines genius from ordinariness (it's a word when I use it).

                        I would submit that it is pretty much the same with story structure. Most successful screenplays have the same basic structure, but it's the dialogue, characters, development of story and character arcs, theme, subtext, and so on, that separate GHOST from GHOST DAD.

                        Your pal,


                        • #13
                          3 acts...or 22 beats or...

                          One of Truby's favorite screenplays to deconstruct using his method is Larry Gelbart's "TOOTSIE". Larry doesn't understand this, because "TOOTSIE" was not written according to Field's paradigm, or Truby's or McKee's. It was constructed to be a good story. He and his partner on the project weren't concerned with page counts and plot points. Whether you want to distill structure down to particular plot points, or 22 emotional beats, or anything else, is really long as you remember that in a sense, ALL stories really have three acts -- they all share a beginning, a middle and an end.


                          • #14
                            It may not be written according to the blueprint...

                            Gelbart may not have consciously sat down and said "I'm going to follow this paradigm", but why don't we all go out and rent TOOTSIE tonight, and report back tomorrow with the occurence of the First Turning Point? I'd be awfully surprised if it doesn't occur somewhere between 25:00 and 29:00--not because Gelbart wanted it to be there...but because good storytelling almost requires that it occur there.

                   what was TOOTSIE's first turning point? Dressing up like a woman to get a job, or actually getting the job? I'd go with the latter.

                            The second turning point...the announcement that they would have to do the show live is my choice, but it's been a while since I've seen TOOTSIE...

                            Your pal,


                            • #15

                              Couch -

                              And that's my point (and Larry's) a good story will always dictate its structure. The beginning will always spin into the middle which will spin into the end. As far as precise page count goes, we are writing in a restrictive medium. Field didn't invent the three act paradigm, he just made a fortune pushing what Aristotle and storytellers from the dawn of time already knew.