Choosing a structure

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  • Choosing a structure

    hey all

    i am starting a new script and as always I feel like it's the first day of school...

    here's my question:

    how do you decide which screenwriting "map" to use?

    3 Act structure? Sequence method? Hero's Journey? Do you mix 'em all up or is that a terrible idea?

    Starting a Revenge Thriller and I am wondering which would make more sense.

  • #2
    Re: Choosing a structure

    Or you could do what I do...

    ... travel without a map and just find my way where I want to go by asking total strangers, keeping my eyes open to landmarks, stopping at every Denny's, watching freeway signs, seeing which direction the ocean is or the sun goes down, etc.

    Not saying it's a good way, but it's "a" way.

    But seriously, is this something you do? What if you just start writing. Won't a "map" reveal itself soon enough? Or has this loose style proven itself to be disastrous?

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Choosing a structure

      Originally posted by TravisPickle View Post
      3 Act structure? Sequence method? Hero's Journey? Do you mix 'em all up or is that a terrible idea?
      They're reflections of the same thing, e.g. hero's journey has three acts and can be viewed as a set of sequences.
      Story Structure 1
      Story Structure 2
      Story Structure 3

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      • #4
        Re: Choosing a structure

        One of the biggest hurdles from a passionate amateur to a quality pro is structure. When do you bring it into the process? What is its purpose? How do you execute it?

        I can tell you this, nobody that writes screenplays for a living thinks anything about any cookie cutter story structure while writing, however at the end of their process do they come out with something that resembles what Joseph Campbell, SydField, or Robert McKee talk about in their books? Yea they do. Why? Because all stories have things the writer must do and do well like establish character, establish setting, set a status quo for what life is like for the hero, challenge that status quo, push the hero into the magical world of story with great momentum, etc. After four months of work, the pro has a script with a conflicted character, interesting setting, unbalanced status quo, great challenges for the hero to overcome both internally and extrrnallygood stories have such things. Good stories move and they move fast. Amateurs linger on the same point for pages and pages.

        More important than structure when starting is direction. Your character starts as A, this event moves him to B, a choice or decision they make move them to C, after realizing the err in his ways this action moves him to D. Give your story a sense a motion and momentum. Now you have points in the story to work toward and not sit there twiddle your thumbs and wonder what's next. Direction is a big thing. You have to make a commitment to a direction and go with it. You should come across multiple directions in your process. Just like a maze has multiple paths to take, but only one perfect one.

        Another big issue is can you see the pitfalls in your own work? Any of us can read a script and point out weaknesses and failed attempts at pulling off story techniques. Can you see that in your work? Until you can, you won't write anything of quality.

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        • #5
          Re: Choosing a structure

          To echo what others have said above, write the story/journey. Then after it's written see what structure it falls under. If it doesn't then maybe tweak it.

          Write the story first with a goal in mind and let the narrative reveal itself.
          You know Jill you remind me of my mother. She was the biggest whore in Alameda and the finest woman that ever lived. Whoever my father was, for an hour or for a month, he must have been a happy man.

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          • #6
            Re: Choosing a structure

            Not this:

            Originally posted by SBdeb View Post
            Or you could do what I do...

            ... travel without a map and just find my way where I want to go . . .
            But this:

            Originally posted by Timmy View Post
            They're reflections of the same thing, e.g. hero's journey has three acts and can be viewed as a set of sequences.
            And this:

            Originally posted by Cyfress View Post
            One of the biggest hurdles — from passionate amateur to quality pro — is structure (edits mine -TF). When do you bring it into the process? What is its purpose? How do you execute it?

            I can tell you this, nobody that writes screenplays for a living thinks anything about any cookie cutter story structure while writing, however at the end of their process do they come out with something that resembles what Joseph Campbell, SydField, or Robert McKee talk about in their books? Yea they do. Why? Because all stories have things the writer must do and do well ...
            TP: Write an outline. That's your “map.” It could help to inform your decision as to what structure would best serve your story. You could write a lengthy treatment first and derive from that your outline, or vice versa. The treatment you can option or sell; the outline is only for you, the writer. Another method would be to emulate the structure of a similar type of movie yet still “make it your own.” Write on.
            Last edited by Clint Hill; 05-18-2017, 02:00 PM.
            “Organizations for writers palliate the writer‘s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing.“ — Ernest Hemingway

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            • #7
              Re: Choosing a structure

              I'm less concerned about that, than deciding exactly when and how to reveal information. It all ends up three acts, anyway, just not necessarily in chronological order. It's peeling the onion that's the challenge. Amazing how deciding on this can change the tone entirely (or is predisposed to). I'll spend months flipping the opening over in my head, all the different approaches to the reveals and their ramifications (pacing, tension, tone, etc.).

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              • #8
                Re: Choosing a structure

                I like to do notecards. That way you don't have to think through the story in order, and it's easy to impose a structure later if you'd like to. You can think of a cool scene or a big reveal, then work backwards or forwards from it as you please.

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                • #9
                  Re: Choosing a structure

                  Originally posted by omjs View Post
                  I like to do notecards. That way you don't have to think through the story in order, and it's easy to impose a structure later if you'd like to. You can think of a cool scene or a big reveal, then work backwards or forwards from it as you please.
                  This is what I do with index cards on a 3'x5' cork bulletin board to develop the layers of the chocolate mousse, the swirls in the cinnamon roll, the raspberry compote and mascarpone in the vanilla layer cake frosted with white chocolate buttercream. No dessert for me, thanks.
                  “Organizations for writers palliate the writer‘s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing.“ — Ernest Hemingway

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Choosing a structure

                    Organizational techniques such as the note card method, 12 sequence method, 3Act structure paradigm can't be crowned as the answer or excluded as useless. There's plenty of scripts being written right now where the writer is using the note card method and the script will not work, others I'm sure will have a standard of quality behind them. Same goes for all those other methods. I remember reading that Ron Bass was a huge fan of the note card process, and Spielberg also recommended it, its the writers way to 'story board' he thought.

                    No matter what you do, no matter what method you use, you have to, you must bring to the table a level of depth, some serious creativity, and the kind of patience that will defeat the frustration you will face along the way.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Choosing a structure

                      Structure isn't arbitrary. Your story dictates it. What kind of story do you want to tell?

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                      • #12
                        Re: Choosing a structure

                        Originally posted by Ven View Post
                        Structure isn't arbitrary. Your story dictates it. What kind of story do you want to tell?
                        I admit a lot of this talk is completely alien to me. When I read the various ideas for creating a story -- it seems like some folks spend a month or two crunching numbers, solving arithmetic problems, drawing boxes and squares, making flow charts, drawing lines to dissect lined paper and THEN finally they try to decide what the story is going to be about. Which starts another lengthy process, that involves writing reams of minutia about minor characters and weeks of consternation about structure and setting and maybe eventually THAT leads to a logline, an outline and maybe even a treatment. Another month (or more) of discussion about the logline and or treatment and FINALLY it's time to START that script.

                        Which often, never seems to happen, because after all those months of dinking around the would-be writers are now bored out of their skulls with the whole idea and/or prefer all this dinking around to actually creating the story. So the whole process starts again...

                        I know that's not what they're actually doing. It just feels that way to me.

                        And that just seems like a lot work for no good reason.
                        "I just couldn't live in a world without me."

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                        • #13
                          Re: Choosing a structure

                          Structure is about logic, progression, and emotional resonance. It can be boiled down to 'things have to happen' that hold the three elements listed above.

                          It's ok to have markers to work towards like a midpoint or inciting incident. But you have to understand that the same kind of craftsmanship needs to be in the unlabeled scenes.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Choosing a structure

                            To quote another writer's approach to structure:

                            Chris Sparling: "Make Act One a mystery, Act Two a thriller, Act Three an action film. Pretty good formula for a commercial genre movie.-

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                            • #15
                              Re: Choosing a structure

                              Originally posted by StoryWriter View Post
                              And that just seems like a lot work for no good reason.
                              I admit I don't understand how this follows from the comment you were responding to.

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