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Screenwriting Structure Series Part 2 by The Unknown Screenwriter

By The Unknown Screenwriter

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Screenwriting Structure Part 1 discussed those elements (shall we call them DRAMATIC ELEMENTS?) that most if not all screenplays really should have if they have a prayer of moving further up the screenplay development chain.

Does that mean you can't write a screenplay that does not contain these elements?

Of course not.

Am I telling YOU that your screenplay better have all these elements?


I'm not gonna even try to do that. The only time I would ever tell a writer that what he or she's done ISN'T WORKING is "IF" they submitted their screenplay to me, otherwise, have at it! Go for broke! Good luck! See you at the movies! LOL.

If you're attempting to break the story mold and have absolutely come up with something better than solid screenplay structure (irregardless of whatever structure you do use) - GO FOR IT. Truly. There's nothing like coming up with something new and there's sure as hell nothing like being the person that came up with it. But it sure as hell better be good. If you haven't fully mastered screenwriting structure, chances are limited that you're going to come up with something new that actually works.

Yesterday, a very famous author, script doctor, and quite a few other things extended this quote to me...

"The first rule of any great writer-is rules are made to be broken." -James Dickey.

Notice how James says, "great writer"?

If you're truly GREAT, then go ahead and start breaking the rules. No. Scratch that. SMASH THE RULES! However, if you are not yet great, then you might just want to get on board with some standard screenwriting structure.

Or not. LOL.

In Screenwriting Structure Part 1, I shared with you, the dramatic elements that I personally feel every screenplay should contain. i.e., the BARE MINIMUM. In and of itself, that's basic screenwriting structure. Without one or more of these dramatic elements, it's very likely that your story is simply going to fall flat on its ass in some way, shape, or form. Do you want that to happen? If so, get crackin'!

If not, read on.

The first thing I want to REALLY DRIVE HOME about screenwriting structure is that it WORKS! And, it almost doesn't matter which screenwriting structure you use as long as YOU are truly familiar and COMFORTABLE with the one you are in fact using. That's right. Most, if not all the different takes on screenwriting structure, WORK. Do some work better than others?

Maybe. It depends.

Okay, Unk... What the hell does it depend on?

Glad you asked. It depends on if YOU UNDERSTAND and LIKE it well enough.


I know some writers that rarely use the same screenwriting structure for everything they write. These writers have studied so many movies that they have damn near broken screenwriting structure down in to genre... i.e., RomCom structure. Thriller structure. Horror structure.

Get it?


While some other writers SWEAR by the 3 Act Structure for just about everything they write. Then there are those writers that strive to improve their writing by carving out their very own form of screenwriting structure...

It's all good. Just start using one and when I say, "JUST START USING ONE," I don't mean for you to use it in the CONNECT-THE-DOTS fashion that I see so many spec screenplays use. Whatever screenwriting structure you decide to use should become an extension of YOU. It should NOT go against your GRAIN. You should believe in it with your heart, body, mind, spirit, and soul. You should KNOW that the screenwriting structure that YOU are using, WORKS.

Once you know that your structure is sound, you will write with confidence. Lack of confidence is your ENEMY. Lack of screenwriting structure can easily mess with, or even worse... DESTROY your confidence when it comes to screenwriting. Screenwriting structure is simply a TOOL. Just like a carpenter may use a saw or hammer, the screenwriter needs to use some kind of structure in order to build a complete story. Screenwriting structure is another MUST HAVE tool in your toolbox.

Even IF you're one of those kinds of screenwriters that prefers to work from a CAUSE and EFFECT perspective, you're still adhering to a form of screenwriting structure. It might be a loose form but it is form none-the-less.

Next Article in series.

About The Unknown Screenwriter

A working screenwriter and producer, The Unknown Screenwriter makes his home in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California and somewhere in the state of New Mexico with just a little bit of Los Angeles thrown in when he feels he can breathe the air.

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