Screenwriting for Structure

Before I knew how profoundly my life would upended by the pandemic, I registered for Creative Writing and Writing for Television and Film over the summer. These classes were always designed to be online, as opposed to the classes that have been converted into virtual learning.

Creative Writing was not nearly as helpful as I would have thought. We had a rubric and short stories to read. We did a total of two writing assignments. I am not excited by anything I wrote in there, although I did like the readings.

Writing for Television and Film did for me exactly what I hoped–it forced me to write within a structure. My self-assessment is that plot and endings are my weak points as a fiction writer. We had a writing assignment every single week. Even though I would procrastinate, I would find that as soon as I got started, I would write and write and end up going over the allotted pages. I liked that feeling of words flowing.

The writing assignments went as follows:

  • Write a two page story
  • Convert that into a Screenplay
  • Fill out an Act One worksheet for a 30-page screenplay (I used the same story)
  • Write act 1
  • Fill out an Act Two worksheet
  • Write the first half of Act 2
  • Write the second half of Act 2
  • Fill out an Act Three Worksheet
  • Write Act 3

And this structure for writing is what I am using for my novels. Because, from the very beginning, my story has structure and an ending. The structures and endings still need work, but I know that setting it up ahead of time really gives me freedom to get into the worldflow.

Back in Week Four, my number one fan an brother-in-law commented to say he’d be interested in seeing the worksheets I use. I reached out to my professor to ask if I could share the ACT One, Two, and Three worksheets on my blog.

Hal Acherman coined the phrase “Propitious Event,” in his book, Write Screenplays the Ackerman Way. Terms like “First Plot Point” have been around forever, but Linda Seger has solidified it in writing.

Christ Hite, Profession, Film/Video, Allan Hancock College

So, if you are interested, here are the worksheets from my class, which are an “aggregation of various theories on structure” from several teachers and texts.

And, of course, check out Joseph Campbell and The Hero’s Journey for more story structure.

Question

What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to writing?

Or, in a different goal or artistic endeavor, what do you struggle with?

Are you doing anything to overcome?

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2 Responses to “Screenwriting for Structure”

  1. Stuart Danker Says:

    My biggest obstacle is that I’ll end up doing ANYTHING except writing. It’s a hard thing to overcome, but I often lie to myself that I’ll just write 100 words. That often helps.

    Like

    • SJR Says:

      That’s a good trick to get yourself over the hump of starting. I find starting is the hardest part. Once I do start, it’s easier to continue. Thanks for sharing!

      Like

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