What are your preferred methods for structure? (ie Sequencing, Snyder Beat Sheet etc)



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  • What are your preferred methods for structure? (ie Sequencing, Snyder Beat Sheet etc)

    I'm using various Structure methods to keep my plots focused depending on the type of Script I'm writing, and I'm wondering which methods you all prefer to use when Outlining or Writing your Scripts?

  • #2
    Did you lose your password, Mass?


    • #3
      Originally posted by Staircaseghost View Post
      Did you lose your password, Mass?


      • #4
        Re: What are Your Preferred Methods for Structure?

        Don't worry about that. Guys, please just try to help. Thanks.

        I don't use a specific structure unless you count "if, then." I just move from this event into what it causes into what that causes, always thinking of how I can make each moment most dramatic and challenge my protagonist.
        Chicks Who Script podcast


        • #5
          Re: What are Your Preferred Methods for Structure?

          Originally posted by GoldLane View Post
          I'm using various Structure methods to keep my plots focused depending on the type of Script I'm writing, and I'm wondering which methods you all prefer to use when Outlining or Writing your Scripts?
          I start at a logline, then write up my five points, do some character work (using theme to build characters), think up some obstacles, write a short synopsis or storymap.

          The last part before writing the script is beating out the story. Nowadays I use a beat sheet (not the Snyder kind) because it just helps me think more logically, but sometimes I find I need to breakout the index cards if the initial outline is too stiff. After I have the list of scenes, I expand them so that I know how they start middle and end. When it's all finished, I have a long outline that I look over and rewrite so that I won't have to do so much rewriting when it comes to the actual script (in theory).

          This is just stuff I picked up after reading dozens of guru books and websites and etc.
          what the head makes cloudy the heart makes very clear


          • #6
            Re: What are Your Preferred Methods for Structure?

            Methods, Save the Cat, beatsheets... all of that can be helpful. Just don't think of it as gospel and you'll be all right. Every story is going to require its own form, to some extent.

            The thing that helped me learn structure more than anything else was when I took a movie similar to mine, wrote down every single scene and its purpose, and then applied it to my story. I literally came up with a match for every one of those scenes and even aimed for similar page numbers. The script changed a ton with the next couple rewrites, but I learned a hell of a lot from writing the first draft in that manner. That wound up being the first script that I felt was written at a professional level.
            QUESTICLES -- It's about balls on a mission.


            • #7
              Re: What are Your Preferred Methods for Structure? (ie Beat Sheet etc)

              Knaight describes things awfully well. I'd say once you've settled on your storyline just write it then compare to basic structure formats. Main thing is visualizing then writing.

              For what it's worth I found a great analysis of Blake Snyder's beat sheet structure at Tim Stout's website. http://timstout.wordpress.com/story-...rs-beat-sheet/. Seems helpful as a breakdown of the conventional storyline beat structure page estimates. Hopefully this might save you some time...

              Beat Sheet--

              Opening Image
              Theme Stated
              The Set Up
              The Catalyst
              Debate Pages
              Break into Act II
              B Story
              Fun and Games
              Bad Guys Close In
              All is Lost
              Dark Night of Soul
              Break Into Act III
              The Finale Page
              Final Image Page

              Obviously if you've in mind something more creative or non-conventional where things skip around such as Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Memento, Mulholland Drive to name few, this info may not apply so much...

              Either way, good luck!!
              " Don't really like writing. But I do like having written." Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad.


              • #8
                Not that I haven't read some stuff on structure, etc., but for the most part, I have no idea what all these things are about when people talk about them.

                Of course, I'm an unsold, unrepped writer, so I guess everyone can just say, "Well, that's probably why." But I won't be unsold and unrepped forever, so what will those people say then?

                Anyway, I think if you can teach yourself structure and beats by just watching movies. If you watch enough movies and really analyze them as opposed to just watching and enjoying them, you'll see the structure. And you need to watch all kinds of different movies, even genres that you don't enjoy, and think about the pacing of those, too.

                Then when you sit down to outline what you want to write, it should all just kind of come naturally and you realize your high action stuff or whacked out comedy bits probably should have a slower paced buffer in between to move the story along and set up the next gag or whatever. Then you better have the plot squared away and people actively resolving it about a third of the way in and then have another huge turning point event a third of the way from the end.

                In other words, you already know this stuff, man. The books and references might help keep you focused or reassure you, but it's telling you what you already know if you have watched enough movies as a sober, thinking person.

                Of course, if you're not intelligent enough to know how to breakdown and analyze a movie as you watch it, then all bets are off...and, unfortunately, I think many, many wannabe writers are just not smart enough to know how to do that. But reading about how to do it and spending money on classes isn't going to help those folks either, so at least learning from watching movies is cheaper and more enjoyable.
                On Twitter @DeadManSkipping


                • #9
                  What are Your Preferred Methods for Structure? (ie Sequencing, Snyder Beat Sheet etc)

                  In late July, Jeff Lowell posted the following in a similar thread:

                  Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                  The STC formula is so malleable that it's hard to find a film where you can't make the case that it fits. Snyder stretched and bent his formula so that he could "prove" that almost every successful film made fit, even though they were all made before he came up with his formula.
                  I thought his succinct, crystal clear insight would put an end to that discussion. Especially his last line. It didn't. Some still thumbs-upped the STC method, and a few other how-to gurus, claiming they were all helpful to some degree.

                  I disagree. In fact, I think these guru formulas can screw up a writer at the beginning of their learning curve and convince them they can conquer the craft easy-peasy, then land a sale in no time at all. Personally, reading these types of books early on (not singling out STC, here) messed with me. Because no matter how faithfully I followed their advice and formulas my work was, eh - okay, but not on par with pros. It took me years to get these guru formulas out of my head. Years to finally see I had to find my own way, my own voice, my own point of view, through patient practice. And I'm still working on it.

                  So, allow me to use the parable approach to expand on Jeff's point (yes, to those who are bound to chastise, I should be using this time to work on my script):

                  The Cake.

                  A neighbor wants to find out why my Granny's amazing homemade chocolate layer cake tastes so darn good. In fact, it's so delicious, this neighbor believes she can make a tidy sum selling chocolate cakes if she can get her hands on Granny's recipe. Problem is, Granny is renowned for keeping all her recipes in her head.

                  The neighbor figures decapitating Granny isn't the way to the go. Instead, she asks Granny to bake her chocolate cake for the neighborhood block party. A ruse, of course. Once the party is in full swing, the neighbor cuts herself a piece of Granny's cake, scurries back to her own house, and retreats to her basement.

                  A flip of the light switch reveals a laboratory that would make any chemist weak in the knees. It seems science is an avocation dear to this neighbor's heart. (Why, you ask? She once took a shot at a career in chemistry but didn't have that inexplicable something to garner fame and fortune for her own work. And she's been searching for a way to capture fame ever since.)

                  She works in the lab for days, breaking down every component, double-checking her results, until she's certain she's cracked Granny's secret. But her first cake tastes no better than a Betty Crocker mix.

                  She then comes to the conclusion the secret must be in the brands of ingredients she chose, not the recipe itself. She buys expensive baking chocolate imported from Belgium. Flour imported from a famous grain mill north of Paris. Brown eggs laid by free-range chickens raised by nuns. (Don't even ask where she got the milk.) Then she tries again.

                  Her second cake is better yet still doesn't hit the mark. Something about the texture is off. The aftertaste doesn't provide that deep, satisfying, cathartic feeling -- as if all is well in the world -- which makes Granny's chocolate cake a true standout.

                  "Not as good," her husband says, "It's missing something." She decides her oven is the problem. She wheels in a new one and tries a couple more times, "Sorry, hon," her husband says, "It still tastes like any other cake. Maybe you should try your hand at something else?"

                  Hmmm, she thinks, something else. And then it hits her. She doesn't have to waste time and effort to become as good a baker as Granny. She can just use her reverse-engineered recipe in a book telling other people how to bake.

                  Soon after, she publishes, "How To Bake The World's Best Chocolate Layer Cake." Chapter after chapter extols her theory -- the secret to baking an awesome cake is to always use the specific ingredients she, and she alone, recommends. She supports this with examples proving every world-famous pastry chef uses Belgium chocolate and French flour and brown eggs from free-range chickens (nuns optional) in their masterpieces.

                  Readers love it. The book makes the bestseller list. The press interviews her. She's invited to judge baking contests. People pay her for private baking lessons. And her publisher wants her to write another book. Although a few skeptics point out she's never baked a truly great cake herself, fame -- the sweet taste of fame -- is finally hers.

                  But what her book fans and paying students may be surprised to know, the true secret to Granny's amazing cake isn't her recipe. It's in the way she whips the eggs. The exact moment she chooses to fold them into the batter. The patience and care she uses when melting the chocolate. Plus something she discovered after years of faithful practice -- sifting the flour three times is far better than sifting it once.

                  In fact, years ago Granny once talked about this to her now-famous neighbor. "Baking is like any craft. It takes practice," Granny smiled, "after a while you'll get it." At the time, the neighbor had shrugged it off convinced the recipe alone -- written down in exact measures -- was all she needed to whip out a cake as grand as Granny's. But that's all in the past, now.

                  These days the neighbor doesn't even bake anymore. Why should she? Not when she's doing so well telling other people how to bake great cakes. And therein lies the irony.
                  Last edited by sc111; 08-29-2013, 02:11 PM.
                  Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-


                  • #10

                    Great post, SC111!

                    Late Night Writer
                    (suddenly craving some chocolate cake...)


                    • #11
                      I agree, great post by sc111.

                      I wish I could write a story like that.


                      • #12
                        sc111, that was better than Jesus.

                        It should be included in the "Best Of" threads.

                        For the formula junkies, it is a cautionary tale and if you didn't understand the significance you need to read the parable over and over until you've got it memorized.

                        This also corroborates what Christopher Lockhart has always said: You've got to love the work.


                        • #13
                          What are Your Preferred Methods for Structure? (ie Sequencing, Snyder Beat Sheet etc)

                          Thanks guys. You know, I think I went on a rant because of what happened recently. All summer I've been working on prose fiction. I'd left my in-progress scripts to simmer figuring I need the space in order to look at them with fresh eyes. By mid-August, it was time to let the prose simmer for the same reason.

                          So, I opened one of the scripts and did a pass. At first, I was on a roll fleshing out scenes, dialogue, having a-ha moments -- absolute fun. And it seemed to me my focusing on the short novella for a couple of months did me good.

                          Then I hit a spot I was considering may do well with an added scene and in the minute or two it took to ponder this, an inner voice cautioned, "Nooo, you can't do that .... " and then proceeded to regurgitate various "rules" by all those gurus I ceased reading years ago.

                          They're still haunting me. Damn it. Even though I ignore them as I write, still there, "Boo!" Is it any wonder, though?

                          You're new to screenwriting, a tabula rasa to a degree. Or, to avoid hyperbole, let's say you're simply impressionable. You love movies but you're no expert on writing for the screen. You need to start somewhere. And here are all of these experts' books with all of these testimonials by famous people who surely know better than you.

                          So you read their always-never rules. Their by-the-beat formulas. And you feel you must follow these teachings because -- look -- haven't they proven the Godfather did and Star Wars did and Jurassic Park did and so on and so on.

                          And though you eventually come to realize guru rules and formulas are wrong -- just as wrong as Mother Superior when she warned what would happen if you play with yourself -- somehow the guru-speak has glued itself to your synapses, hidden there, like some sort of freaking mental land mine, waiting to blow the legs off your script when you least expect it.

                          I need an exorcist.
                          Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-


                          • #14
                            Re: What are Your Preferred Methods for Structure?

                            When I outline the main ones I think about are:

                            Inciting Incident
                            First Act Break
                            Mid Point
                            Point of No Return

                            There are several in between there (or could be) but I generally let the story take over and it moves and changes.

                            I think if you tell a great story it naturally is structured well and hits all those beats you see in a movie. I guess you can tell structure isn't way up on my list of priorities other than when I'm outlining, and even then things just tend to fall in place.

                            Writer on a cable drama.


                            • #15
                              Re: Sequencing, Snyder Beat Sheet etc

                              @sc111 - I know how you feel. My nearest thing to a cure is reading books by proper writers/filmmakers to make you realise that their methods are as scatty and disordered as your own. Fight the negative noise in your head with more noise.

                              Re: the nuts and bolts of planning your story, I do 8-10 sequences. Start with a line for each. Then a couple of lines for each, fleshing out details. Then a page for each, where every turn of the action is plotted out. This usually runs to about 5-6 paragraphs. So when that's done - and this part takes ages - I know each of those paragraphs is roughly 2 pages of script. And suddenly writing feels a teeny bit easier.

                              But the above assumes I've already figured out character and theme, which is a weird ethereal process in my head.

                              This might sound a bit overly calculated but it works for me.

                              My stuff