For example, a script has to take into account the visual nature of film and cannot rely on the imagination of the audience. It also has to take into account stage directions and timing, something that a novelist can overlook. Thus, it is helpful for budding screenwriters to have an overview of the script writing process. A screenwriter might adapt a story written by someone else or use history and literature to adapt a story.
Some folks disagree — see the comments at the end of this post. This is my take on screenplay structure. Structure is the key to a successful screenplay. Act 1 is the beginning, or the set-up; Act 2 is the middle, or confrontation; and Act 3 is the end, or resolution.
The major turning points, or plot points, occur at the end of acts 1 and 2. The midpoint is an important reversal approximately half way through the second act: The duration of each act is not cast in stone, but typical lengths are half an hour for the first act, an hour for act two, and half an hour for act three.
The three-act paradigm is sometimes criticized, especially in indie circles, for being a construct imposed by the Hollywood film industry. Critics of the 3-act structure like to cite famous plays as examples of successful scripts that deviate from the model by having a different number of acts.
I wholeheartedly disagree with this viewpoint. It is quite clear to me that these plays do in fact conform to the three-act paradigm, and do so at a fundamental level; their two, four, or five acts are not true acts, but merely artificial subdivisions that the playwright had to impose for set-design and stage-management purposes i.
To illustrate my point I will use two famous and immensely effective plays that appear to deviate from the three-act structure: These plays are sometimes cited as evidence in arguments against the three-act structure. A witchcraft expert, Reverend Hale, arrives in town to assist the court. John Proctor is extremely skeptical about the whole thing, but Act 1 ends with the girls hysterically confessing to having indulged in witchcraft.
Act 1 Act 2 — John Proctor is as skeptical as ever. Tension is uncovered between Proctor and his wife, Elizabeth. Mary Warren, their servant, brings news of the bizarre witch trials. The court marshal arrives and arrests Elizabeth Proctor, who has been charged with witchcraft. Elizabeth misinterprets the situation and lies, hoping to help her husband, when in fact it is the truth that would have saved him a sublime example of dramatic irony.
Abigail forces Mary Warren to cry out against Proctor, who denounces the court in a fit of rage. Proctor is arrested and taken away. Elizabeth Proctor is brought in to convince him and Proctor reluctantly agrees to confess, but when Danforth demands a signed confession, Proctor tears up the document and declares that he would rather die than sell his name.
Proctor is taken out and hanged.
But why did Arthur Miller divide it into four acts? The answer is simple: It was not physically possible to divide it into three acts without compromising the script or causing major inconvenience to anyone attempting to stage it.
It works beautifully in this instance, but it is not advisable to have such a long first act in your screenplay. In a movie script the first act should achieve its mandatory aims in the least possible amount of time — twenty or thirty minutes at the very most for a feature-length screenplay.
Mandatory aims include making the audience as interested as possible in the characters and explaining what their problem is.
It occurs to Macbeth that this may mean having to kill the current king, Duncan. Lady Macbeth persuades her husband to kill Duncan in order to speed things up. Act 1 Act 2 — Macbeth kills Duncan.
Act 3 — Banquo strongly suspects that Macbeth has become king by foul means. Malcolm and Macduff form an alliance, joined by Ross when he brings news of the massacre.This first-rate screenwriting primer provides a concise presentation of screenwriting basics, along with query letters, useful worksheets, checklists, sample scenes and more to help you break into screenplay writing.
Brian A. Klems October 16, at am. OK, folks, we’re ending this line of conversation. I agree that the original argument was baseless as you don’t need to be an astronaut to write (successfully) about a main character who is an astronaut, and the same can be said for writing fight scenes.
Why I’m Thinking About Writing a Screenplay. Earlier this week, a friend who’s a lawyer approached me about a writing opportunity.
He was closing a tragic but fascinating case, and he thought it had potential to be a major film. Writing The Perfect Scene Having trouble making the scenes in your novel work their magic?
In this article, I’ll show you how to write the “perfect” scene. Screenwriting: How To Write an Action Film.
Step 3: Script Structure. There are 6 points of script structure, and you will need to follow these.
Normally, for action films there is the set up in the first stage and the start of the conflict. Watch a few action scenes, and you will notice that they all follow these stages.
Step 4: Dialogue. How should fight scenes or action scenes be written? There is no universal way of writing action scenes. As with all formatting advice, the goal is to clearly express your vision without taking the reader out of the screenplay.