A professor I once knew used to boil down good storytelling into a very simple mantra: “Every story has to have a beginning, a middle and an end.”
Well, duh! I know, I know … It seems like a no-brainer – and it sort of is – but when it comes to movie scripts that work the way they’re supposed to, these elements, the three “acts” of a story, are crucial. Not only that, but these stages of storytelling require very specific ingredients that, when combined properly and precisely, make for a compelling script.
Act One: Story Set-up
The first act of your script must immediately and clearly set the tone and establish a theme for the film. Is your story a light-hearted comedy, or a quirky superhero caper? This beginning not only must introduce your main characters, but should define their weakness, tensions, conflicts, objectives and what’s at stake for them. Near the end of the first act, the inciting incident occurs. It’s the moment in the story when you lay out the important conflict that defines your tale.
Act Two: Obstacles
The second act revolves around the main character’s attempts to resolve the conflict introduced in Act One. The character is confronted with an obstacle or a series of obstacles. The script must describe in visual terms the character’s attempts to overcome. It is in Act Two that the screenwriter can introduce a subplot that runs parallel to the primary conflict. Throughout this act, the main characters should be further developed; it should be clear in this act how the efforts to deal with the conflict are leading to change in the characters.
Act Three: Story Resolution
New tensions and conflicts are introduced in Act Three, but this time changes in protagonist’s outlook lead him to confront this tension in a different way. The final act is where plot twists provide unsuspected but welcomed surprises, as well as the “obligatory scene” during which the script delivers some sort of anticipated payoff to the audience. Lastly, the final conflict is resolved and the audience gets a glimpse into the characters’ new realities.
|ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press. She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.