Monday, 1 December 2014

Story structure

Darious J. Britt gives us his summary of story structure.



2 comments:

Kathy Smart said...

Darious Britt gives a clear summary of 3 act story structure.

Structure is the basics of storytelling and provides a guideline to write and evaluate stories.

1. a roadmap
2. helps story progress
(the backbone which keeps story changing and revolving)
3. bad story structure makes audiences feel as though nothing is happening in the movie.

Darious says there are many many versions of story structure out there. It seems as though every other screenwriting book guru has their own version and their own terminology but at the end of the day it’s all the same thing. The industry standard versions are in:
• Blake Snyder Save the Cat
• Syd Field Screenplay, The Foundations of Screenwriting
• Robert McKee Story
• Joseph Campbell The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Each act is separated by specific plot points.
Each act serves a specific function.

One page of a screenplay is roughly a minute of movie time.

Act one, the set up, is roughly 25-30 minutes.
• Need strong, attention-grabbing opening. Sometimes this is called the flash-bang opening or the hook.
• In first 10-15 minutes you set up
o Tone
o Main character/s
o Status quo/ordinary world
• About halfway through first act, have inciting incident/catalyst/call to adventure. All of a sudden, we have a problem.
• For the rest of Act 1, main character refuses to answer the call to adventure or avoids the problem or prepares to take action.
First plot point at end of act one at minute 25-30. First turning point/Act 1 climax/first act break/lock in. Sends plot in new direction, propels main character into action. Works best if big/distinct/memorable. In action movies it is a set piece or a big action sequence.
At this moment or as a result of this moment, main character decides he will take on the problem.
Act two, the confrontation, starts 24-31 minutes in, ends 70-90 minutes in. Rising action. Longest act, usually broken into 2 parts.
o First part of Act 2 Fun and games. Tension and conflict aren’t high yet. Establish new characters and subplot or two. In love stories, the relationship develops. In buddy cop movies, they bicker. Usually find montages here. Heroes learn new skills and abilities. Most of the cool stuff in movie trailers comes from this part of the story. Writer needs to build up to midpoint.
About half way through Act 2 get another turning point called the midpoint/midpoint climax/midpoint reversal/Act 2 tentpole. 45 minute mark in 90 minute movie and 60 minute mark in 2 hour movie. At this midpoint there is a major shift in the dynamic of the story. The main character has a major success/devastating failure/powerful revelation.
Not every story has to have a midpoint climax and not every story needs one.
o Second part of Act 2 Things get serious. Raise the stakes, ratchet up the tension, the bad guys close in. If first half of Act 2 is rising to victory, second half of Act 2 is falling to defeat. Everything is building to second plot point. If bad guys defeated at midpoint, they come back stronger. Hero faces extreme conflict both internally and externally. In romance movies the relationship starts falling apart.
Near end of Act 2, All Is Lost moment/false defeat/page 80 crash, around minute 75. This moment is the opposite of the midpoint. Physical loss of everything.

Kathy Smart said...

Shortly after All Is Lost moment, have Dark Night Of The Soul at roughly minute 75-85. Doesn’t have to be long. Main character is at his lowest. Emotional reaction to All Is Lost Moment.
Usually this is where the main plot and the subplot merge for story inspiration. Hero may receive pep talk.
Second plot point, plot point 2/Act 2 climax/Act 2 turning point/Act 2 reversal/Act 2 break/the Ah-Hah moment, at end of Act 2 is turning point in story that sends plot into new direction and launches characters into Act 3. Minute 80 in 90 minute movie, minute 90 in 2 hour movie. Main character comes up with solution. If midpoint was failure, then second plot point would be false victory.
Act three starts minute 80 or 90, the shortest of all the acts, 15-30 minutes. Conflict and tension at their highest, hero must overcome ridiculous odds.
Sometimes there is an act three twist in the middle of act three such as revelation or false death.
Act three climax/finale minute 85-110 is what the entire movie has been building up to this one moment. Tensions and conflict are at their highest. The most exciting moment of the movie.
After climax comes resolution, ending. Then wrap up final questions, loose ends, remaining tensions. Give the audience that sigh of relief, that time to wind down after their intense roller coaster ride.

Not every story has to follow this Three Act structure. A number of successful movies don’t.
Rocky follows a three act structure but not traditional one. Some movies have four or five acts. Deviate with caution because story structure is a time-tested and proven way to optimise audience engagement.