Julie Selbo. Gardner’s Guide to the Screenplay: From Idea to Successful Script. Washington, D.C.: Garth Gardner Co.m 2007.
The writer states there is an Eleven Step Story Structure to classic storytelling of a character’s storyline.
First, a writer must come up with an idea that will strike the audience’s emotions. A story needs to describer characters and present how they change through the presentation. The characters should stir the audience’s interest and the story should show a character arc.
Ideas can come from reality, which are generally more unusual then fictitious ideas. Note if someone else holds the rights to a story in reality. A story can be high concept, which is described in a few words, or low concept, which requires more description. A screenplay could fit a particular genre since many choose which films to see by genre.
Most first draft screenplays are around 100 pages.
Act One had to set a tone, indicate the genre, describe what a protagonist needs or wants, present supporting characters, present the story, show the back story, provide an inciting incident, show conflict, and end with the first plot point.
The more that can be shown visually, the better.
Act Two presents confrontations, complications facing the protagonist, the stakes for the protagonist’s goals are elevated, more obstacles to those goals emerge, and a crisis ensues.
Act Three presents the climax of the story, resolves the story, and indicates the future results.
The 11 Step Structure is as follows: 1. Show the character goals and why those goals are important. 2. Show the character pursing the goals. 3. Present a reason why the character doesn’t obtain the goals, 4. Give the character a second chance at the goals, 5. Present conflicts over whether the character should take the second chance. 6. Present the character deciding to take the second chance, 7. Have the character taking the second chance, 8. Have the path to the second chance appear impossible, 9. Create a crisis to the story, 10. Provide the climax, and 11. Allow a truth to successfully resolve the character’s story.
All the character’s goals, including immediate goals that contribute to the plot, should tie-in to the character’s overall wants, which demonstrated character.
A character has to achieve an overall want in a logical manner.
The thing that denies a character’s goals should be large enough that a new way to the goal must be found.
There must be conflicts along the path.
The main character needs to pursue the goal above all the conflicts.
The continued path must be one that is denied in a grand manner.
The inability to again reach the goal must test the main character.
A crisis needs to force the main character to question but then decide to continue to reach the goal.
The climax should force the main character to use unforeseen emotional and/or physical abilities.
After the goal has been reached, a truth must emerge that resolves the story.
A story should find its proper rhythm.
A character must act consistently.
The story must change the character.
The antagonist should be strong and pose great difficulties for the protagonist to overcome.
A protagonist should have strong relations with other characters, be they allies, mentors, or rivals.
Audience should learn who the characters are.
Characters should have secrets that are revealed later.
The plot should show key information about the main character.
A character should move by visual actions than by dialogue.
The screenwriter should know the basic ending, but not necessarily all the scenes, before beginning to write. The ending guides the beginning. A good story should have surprise elements.
An inciting incident should deviate the main character from a normal path into the story.
A story should be only about one thing.
The protagonist’s story should be the main focus throughout the story.
An audience should get to know the characters, especially the main characters. Yet the story should not be delayed too long.
The film should move the protagonist along a series of events. When writing, try thinking of what the worst possible obstacle would be thrown at the protagonist.
The story must have lots of conflict.
Subplots can add comedy or drama while helping to move the main plot forward. They can provide insight or create new obstacles. Supporters should intensity matters for the main character.
A “beat” should be written into a screenplay only to signify a highly emotional or tense scene or where no words can be used. It should never be used to suggestion acting direction.
The writing should be strong enough to allow a director or actor to realize how a role should be played.
Acting direction should be written only when the story depends upon the direction, as in when the actor has a line with a hidden contrary meaning.
Every scene, and sequence of scenes, must keep moving the story forward.
The author recommends screenwriters to think sequentially about the story to organize thoughts. Search for the best story sequence.
A screenwriter needs to know what exposition needs to shown about characters and how to show it. Exposition must relate to the story. It is generally better to present something visually, with exposition, than through dialogue.
Attitude should come through in dialogue. Write as people speak. Often this is in incomplete sentences or using just one word. Dialogue should move the story forward.
A screenwriter should not state the obvious. Subtext, which can indicate something different from what is being said, can present a character’s emotions. Great emotionally revealing scenes, though, usually require dialogue with an exact meaning rather than subtext.
The character’s actions should move the story forward.
There should be consequences for every sequence.
The story should have an emotional arc that results in the character having new beliefs. The character’s actions show the evolution of the emotional arc.
Conflict is essential to the story. Denying a character’s needs with obstacles can create conflict. The obstacles should be difficult to overcome. A hero emerges in the story conquering the obstacles. The hero should have a flaw or weakness that must also be overcome in order to triumph over the obstacles. The conflict should escalate in a personal manner towards the hero.
A logline can help the screenwriter concentrate on the story, consider its basics, and create a quick description to others of the story. It tells the full story and does not leave the ending unknown.
An outline displays the story’s overall structure. It is mostly for the screenwriter’s personal use.
A treatment is a 7 to 12 page description of the story. It is seen by studio executives and producers. It can be an official paper as to what the movie will be like.
An author’s personal outlook on the world enters into scripts. A writer does well to write about matters that interest the writer. It should be a dramatic question. It should offer a unifying theme. The story presents the truth of the theme.
A screenwriter should create a natural progression of sequences for a main character, demonstrate the main character’s wants, show at least three logical things the main character can do to obtain these wants, find which obstacle is the biggest denial to those wants, and then analyze these towards creating Act One. The screenwriter should consider the story’s pacing, present scene late in order to concentrate on actors rather than needless dialogue, and should end before exposing what happens next.
In writing Act Two, a screenwriter should consider knowing the story’s direction, show what is really the true needs of the main character, create unforeseen obstacles about the midpoint of the story, create a new avenue for the main character to go after wants, create new conflicts, have the main character proceed towards goals in spite of new obstacles, have the main character find a path to success, and have that path crumble which creates a crisis that puts the main character at a lowest point.
Subplots should work, running gags should be properly paces and appear at least three times, the theme should progress, character’s should be changed by the story, subplots should be presented, the story should reach a climax where all stakes are raised to their highest level, the protagonist and antagonist face off, then the pace quickens with shorter scenes, a truth emerges, the main characters has earned a changed reality, and the end of the story is presented.