I was teaching this Screenwriting Tricks for Authors class at the Jubilee Jambalaya Writers Conference this past weekend and I compiled a list of all the story structure elements I've been breaking down (okay, I've undoubtedly left some out...).
I thought I'd post it here, too.
It's a great list to use when you're brainstorming index cards, because even if you don't know the exact scenes yet, you can write the elements on cards and stick them into your story structure grid in relative order and feel like you've done a whole day's work. Hah!
No, what I really mean is, when you're writing out cards for just general story elements, it, you will be shocked at how great scenes suddenly come to you that will fill in huge gaps in your story. If not right that second, then after you sleep on it, or a few days later.
The post on doing index cards is here, and I've linked to more in-depth discussions on each individual act, too.
STORY ELEMENTS CHECKLIST FOR GENERATING INDEX CARDS
- Opening image
- Meet the hero or heroine
- Hero/ine’s inner and outer desire.
- Hero/ine's ghost or wound
- Hero/ine’s arc
- Inciting Incident/Call to Adventure
- Meet the antagonist (and/or introduce a mystery, which is what you do when you’re going to keep your antagonist hidden to reveal at the end)
- State the theme/what’s the story about?
(possibly. May not have one or may be revealed later in the story).
- Love interest
- Plant/Reveal (or: Set ups and Payoffs)
- Hope/Fear (and Stakes)
- Time Clock (possibly. May not have one or may be revealed later in the story)
- Sequence One climax
- Central Question
- Act One climax
- Crossing the Threshold/ Into the Special World (may occur in Act One)
- Threshold Guardian (maybe)
- Hero/ine’s Plan
- Antagonist’s Plan
- Training Sequence
- Series of Tests
- Picking up new Allies
- Assembling the Team
- Attacks by the Antagonist (whether or not the Hero/ine recognizes these as being from the antagonist)
- In a detective story, questioning witnesses, lining up and eliminating suspects, following clues.
THE MIDPOINT –
- Completely changes the game
- Locks the hero/ine into a situation or action
- Can be a huge revelation
- Can be a huge defeat
- Can be a “now it’s personal” loss
- Can be sex at 60 – the lovers finally get together, only to open up a whole new world of problems
ACT TWO, PART TWO
- Recalibrating – after the shock or defeat of the game-changer in the Midpoint, the hero/ine must Revamp The Plan and try a New Mode of Attack.
- Escalating Actions/ Obsessive Drive
- Hard Choices and Crossing The Line (immoral actions by the main character to get what s/he wants)
- Loss of Key Allies (possibly because of the hero/ine’s obsessive actions, possibly through death or injury by the antagonist).
- A Ticking Clock (can happen anywhere in the story)
- Reversals and Revelations/Twists. (Hmm, that clearly should have its own post, now, shouldn't it?)
- The Long Dark Night of the Soul and/or Visit to Death (aka All Is Lost)
- In a romantic comedy or romance - the All is Lost moment often looks more like: The Lover Makes a Stand.
THE SECOND ACT CLIMAX
- Often can be a final revelation before the end game: the knowledge of who the opponent really is
-Answers the Central Question
The third act is basically the Final Battle and Resolution. It can often be one continuous sequence – the chase and confrontation, or confrontation and chase. There may be a final preparation for battle, or it might be done on the fly. Either here or in the last part of the second act the hero will make a new, FINAL PLAN, based on the new information and revelations of the second act.
The essence of a third act is the final showdown between protagonist and antagonist. It is often divided into two sequences:
1- Getting there (Storming the castle)
2- The final battle itself
- Thematic Location - often a visual and literal representation of the Hero/ine’s Greatest Nightmare
- The protagonist’s character change
- The antagonist’s character change (if any)
- Possibly allies’ character changes and/or gaining of desire
- Could be one last huge reveal or twist, or series of reveals and twists, or series of final payoffs you've been saving (as in BACK TO THE FUTURE and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE).
- RESOLUTION: A glimpse into the New Way of Life that the hero/ine will be living after this whole ordeal and all s/he’s learned from it.
Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, II, are now available in all e formats and as pdf files. Either book, any format, just $2.99.
- Smashwords (includes pdf and online viewing)
- Barnes & Noble/Nook
- Amazon UK
- Amaxon DE (Eur. 2.40)
- Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)
- Barnes & Noble/Nook
- Amazon UK
- Amazon DE
Previous articles on story structure also linked at right hand side of blog under WRITING ARTICLES.