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Can Screenplay Software Help Structure My Story & Film Script?

By Dan Bronzite

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Previous Article: What Are The Rules To Format A Movie Screenplay?

Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. In the beginning you setup your hero and his story, then you throw something at him that is a great source of conflict and takes him into a whole heap of trouble. After facing many foes and overcoming various obstacles the hero saves the day and wins the girl.

If only writing a movie was that easy...

The thing is, there are many forms of structure. Some subscribe to one formula, others subscribe to another. Some try not to subscribe to any and see the whole idea of structure as "evil", feeling that a story should evolve organically without rules confining ideas or obstructing the creative flow. In the end, a story should dictate the kind of structure it follows or whether it shouldn't follow a structure at all. There's no point trying to write a comedy and forcing the structure of a thriller upon it - it won't work. Well, theoretically it won't but I'm sure someone will find a way! Let your characters define the story and your story define your structure and then use a formula if necessary to tighten your script. The trick is to initially let the ideas flow without paying too much attention to structure and in your second pass begin to focus your story and separate the wheat from the chaff.

Below is a diagram defining the typical three-act structure of most stories. If a screenplay is 120 pages long then the first act is thirty pages, the second act is sixty pages and the final act is thirty. But again, this all depends on the genre of film you are writing and the needs of your story. Don't be too pinned down to these rules at the outset. But if you find your story is not working or your script is 150 pages long then you know you have made some errors along the way and need to pay closer attention to your blueprint.

3 Act Structure

Another popular form of structure derived from Joseph Campbell's Monomyth and adapted by Christopher Vogler is the twelve stage Hero's Journey. This is essentially a more detailed "character arc" for your story's hero which is overlaid onto the more traditional three-act structure that many successful Hollywood movies such as Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz when analyzed appear to follow. But once again, don't worry about structure too much when writing your first draft, just get your story out using our screenplay software and then start honing it with rewrites.

Movie Outline's structuring features allow you to color-code your story and create structure templates.

The five default templates included are:
  • Hero's Journey
  • 3 Act Screenplay
  • 5 Act Stage Play
  • One Hour TV Drama
  • Half-Hour TV Sitcom
These templates can be modified to suit your project's needs and you can even create your own templates from scratch or save templates from one project for use in another.
Planning Your Story's Three Act Structure

Each sample template is designed to help you structure your story and they include comprehensive information about each section, helping you understand how a particular type of story narrative works. They are, however, merely a guide and should not be rigidly adhered to. Creativity is far more important than sticking to a "formula" but they can help you pace your story and troubleshoot rewrites.

Next Article: How To Use Screenwriting Software To Organize Scenes & Plan Script Rewrites

About Dan Bronzite

Dan is a produced screenwriter, CEO of Nuvotech and creator of Movie Outline 3 screenwriting software. He has written numerous specs and commissioned feature scripts including screenplay adaptations of Andrea Badenoch's Driven and Irvine Welsh's gritty and darkly comic novel Filth. Dan is a contributor to Script Magazine and has also directed two award-winning short films Finders, Keepers... (1995) and Absolution (2001) which have played the international festival circuit. His most notable feature to date is Long Time Dead, a supernatural horror for Working Title Films starring Lukas Haas, Marsha Thomason, Lara Belmont, Alec Newman and Joe Absolom. His spec horror Do or Die was recently sold to Qwerty Films and he is in the process of developing his directorial feature debut and various US and UK projects.

Screenwriting Article by Dan Bronzite

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