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5 Reasons Screenplay Story Structure is Important

Writers often debate about whether to outline or not to outline. Whether you write a story or a screenplay, it's always advisable to work out the plot ahead of time so you can discover the best way of telling it to not only appease the reader, but also to engage your audience.

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When it comes to learning how to tell a story or learning how to write a screenplay, you need structure. Structure is not screenplay format or story mapping. Story writing and the story writing tips for both stories and screenplays that follow have nothing to do with script writing format, screenwriting format, or how to format a screenplay. Writing stories based on story structure is really the first step in writing a story that a reader and eventual audience will pay money to read and attend.

What is story structure? Structure is arranging your story's elements into a specific chronological order to elicit the perfect emotional response from the reader. If you're writing a screenplay, the same thing goes, but of course, you'll eventually want to see your screenplay evolve into a movie and so again, screenplay structure is arranging your screenplay's story elements into a specific chronological order so that you elicit the perfect emotional response from your audience.

Story structure also refers to a way in which your characters, events, reactions and outcomes of a story are organized in order to create a solid plot.

Story and screenplay structure are actually very simple... The basic principles of storytelling have been understood for centuries – even back in ancient civilization, storytellers knew when the hero should enter, when the plot should take a turn for the worse, and when a climax should rise and fall. Some scientists even believe that storytelling is hard-wired into our brains. Suffice to say... You cannot escape the basic principles of storytelling, no matter what story genres, story setting, or the medium.

1. Give them what they want: The audience subconsciously expects certain things to happen at certain points in a movie. Structure reveals this information so seamlessly they forget it’s coming and are hooked to keep watching more. Without even realizing it, a well-structured movie causes your audience's emotions to run wild and live vicariously through both your Protagonist and main characters.

2. Screenplay structure is about two things: Content of your story and the form used to tell your story. Two common ways to describe these two parts of narrative screenplay structure are story and plot.

3. Proper pacing: When it comes to releasing your story's information, pacing is critical to keep your audience on the edge of their seats. When you keep the pace fast, the Hollywood executive will be anxious to turn the page to see what happens next. Keeper a reader engaged is critical to selling a screenplay.

4. Scenes: As you write and eventually edit each scene, be clear on at least one overall goal for that scene. A scene that simply describes its location, or even something about a particular character, yet provides no real information, no decision, no action, no change or forward motion to your overall story is a scene without structure.

5. Outline: Don't build before you plan. The details are in your preparation, and for the screenwriter, the prep work is what we call The Outline. Outline first. Write second.

Get our FREE PDF download, Story Structure for Your Screenplay, to help you outline your screenplay like a pro!