All screenwriters who are interested in developing their craft further are invited. I will be sending out a weekly newsletter and ongoing blog to share screenwriting tips and information to make us all better writers.
Hello, screenwriters. I have been giving a three part webinar this month on story structure. I wanted to share with you the seminal part of what I’ve been talking about.
In a nutshell: plot is not structure. This is what many of the story gurus would have you believe – like Blake Snyder in his popular book: Saving The Cat. He would have you believe that your plot is what makes up the structure of your screenplay.
That unfortunately is not the case. The structure of any great screenplay relies on what the story is about emotionally. Let me give you an example from a film we all know and love – Godfather.
Michael Corleone starts as a patriotic, ethical young man just back from the war. He tells his girlfriend (Diane Keating) a horrible story about how his father almost killed a business associate to get what he wanted. But he assures her: “That is not me, Kate.”
The structure of the Godfather is based on Michael’s extreme character arc going from this person to the ruthless head of his crime family.
The plot is simply a means to show that growth: his father is shot and almost killed and Michael decides that the only way to keep him alive is to kill the drug dealer who arranged his assassination and the police captain who is protecting him. That’s the plot but it’s only there to service the emotional growth of the protagonist.
So to think organically when you write screenplays, you don’t first come up with a plot, then decide what protagonist to throw into the plot. I can’t tell you how many times I see the writers in my workshops proceed exactly like this. They’re putting the horse before the cart. Your movie should first be constructed on the character and the character arc of that protagonist – then you come up with a plot to help show that emotional growth. That is thinking organically.
Always remember – a plot is just a device – it doesn’t exist for itself – it exists to service the protagonist’s character arc. And the more extreme that character arc (in the case of Godfather it’s huge) the better your story will be. Because...