Screenwriting can be fun but time-consuming. It takes dedication and a great dose of creativity to write a powerful script. Depending on what the script is for, whether a movie or a TV show, there are different structures that screenplay writers use to develop good scripts.
There is no general rule, however, that dictates how a script should be written, but of course, there are key steps that should be followed to ensure the story flows right from the introduction to the conclusion.
We will break down the basics of screenplay writing and explain a few structures that can be applied in any type of genre and story.
The Real Time Structure
This is one of the most interesting, but tricky compared to some of the commonly used structures. Every bit of the story has to be in real-time; there are no breaks, flashbacks or time jumps. Every single minute has to be accounted for. The story is also continuous and unfiltered. It is one of the most difficult structures to work with, but when everything falls into place, the end product can be a masterpiece. This structure calls for strict adherence to the rules, but most writers use the ticking time clock to ensure every part weaves into the other without wasting a single second.
The Three Act Structure
This simply means dividing the story into three parts – the start, middle and end. It is one of the easiest structures in screenplay writing. Each scene has to, however, transition into the next seamlessly to ensure the momentum of the story is maintained from the beginning to the end. It is one of the widely used structures and many blockbusters have been developed through the Three Act Structure. Mostly, it begins with the character and the world they live in, this is then followed by the conflict and finally the resolution. It is basic but one of the best.
Multiple Timeline Structure
This happens to be one of the most difficult structures in screenplay writing. It involves combining different stories into one compact story without distorting any important aspects of the different stories. The stories usually follow a common theme, but they don’t have to be related in any way. The binding factors are usually messages and emotions. This structure demands a great level of creativity, but if used well, writers get a chance to use unconventional storytelling techniques. This structure has been used to produce some of the most interesting movies and TV shows.
Reverse Chronological Structure
This structure also falls in the category of the most difficult ones to develop. It involves dividing the story into sections which are later weaved together in reverse order. This may sound simple, but the story has to be flawless and compelling even in reverse style. Making good use of suspense is a key aspect of this structure.
Non Linear Structure
In this structure, the story doesn’t follow a straight line. It is weaved through different stages that have to jump forward, backwards and sideways. There is normally no chronology of events, but this doesn’t mean that the different scenes shouldn’t connect. Everything has to flow and connect into a beautiful story.
In simple terms, the story doesn’t move from point A to Z in a straight line. It can move from point B to L and back to point A. This structure challenges the way people view things and the way human memory works. It can be a little confusing, but when done well, it is one of the structures known to produce some of the most captivating films. In this, the audience has to keep recalling the last scene to connect it to what is happening at that particular moment. For screenplay writers looking to challenge their thoughts, this is one of the best structures to use.
There are other types of structures, but the ones explained here are the most common. Scriptwriting can be a rewarding job, but it requires great creativity and an imaginative mind. One of the things that film producers look at before considering a script is how the different characters have been developed and their role in driving the story forward from the beginning up to the end.
Before embarking on a scriptwriting project, always think about the characters and their roles in the story to ensure there are both dominant and supporting characters. All the characters must also work towards a common goal of moving the story forward until the end without any confusion.