How to write a SCREENPLAY

The typical structure for summarising a screenplay in three acts, would be:

ACT ONE:

  • Show that the main character has a serious flaw (but not detailed)
  • Show the evidence of the flaw by its effects on others
  • Introduce the Key Flaw (shown to us by dialogue from someone close)
  • Allow the audience to perceive some depth to the main character and wonder how far down will the character sink – while having some good point
  • Introduce a Crisis Point – which needs to be solved before moving on
  • Escalate rapidly into a Climax – exposing raw emotion and inner self

ACT TWO:

  • Change the location or circumstances of their environment – hint at changes
  • Gradually awaken the main character to think about their problems
  • Make the central character aware of their serious flaw (needs, desires, hurdle to overcome)
  • Introduce sub-plot relationships (love works well with audiences)
  • Midpoint – main character is now fully aware of Key Flaw- not in denial to self – but inability to rise above (“I can’t, and I won’t” inner expression and conflict)
  • Make the central character face up to the Key Flaw – possibly as an internal challenge
  • Produce the Catalyst for changing their behaviour – can become proficient in another task – healing of one element by another unrelated event
  • More work on sub-plot relationships – involving the effect of new behaviour on others
  • All indications of change and turmoil and choices – leading to a Dilemma – What to do?  Making the right choice at the expense of other things (needs, desires, love interests, problem solving etc.)
  • Crisis Point occurs when some factor pushes the main character too far – enabling a change in thinking to be made – and a new chance of success
  • Climax point for Act Two (hard to write) – major event releases emotions in other areas – major point is good, but often negative smaller issues suffer – especially relationships

ACT THREE:

  • Give the main character a chance to beat their Key Flaw and associated effects and character traits
  • Catalyst for change in obtaining an expression for breaking their Key Flaw
  • Show main character has resourcefulness – as all heroes exhibit this
  • Establish a proving ground where main character is Confronted by their fears and goes beyond the call of duty to beat their Key Flaw attributes
  • Throw in a final Crisis Point, where it looks as though the main character will eventually lose out, after all they have been through – generally because they are up against an insurmountable choice or have too much to lose on behalf of others
  • Resolution is the end result of overcoming the Key Flaw, and the problems encountered, that were the reason why the problems could not be faced.
  • Send the audience home with a tear in their eye, a sense of having lived the tale themselves, having experienced all the roller-coaster emotional tugs and pushes – and left with a thought that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

(c) Stefan Nicholson 2009

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