Story Structure The Screenplays Foundation

"A writer's material is what he cares about."

—John Gardner

The foundation of your screenplay will be solid and secure and won't collapse if you build a strong structure. By now you have determined how your story will end and how it will begin. In your opening, the main character has been introduced with a specific problem to solve, or a dramatic question to answer. This allows you to set up the goal which your main character has to reach in the climax. For example, in the movie Schindler's List, Oskar Schindler's goal during the Holocaust is to save as many Jews as he possibly can from certain death in the gas chamber, by employing them to work for him in his factory.

In a romantic comedy adapted from Helen Fielding's popular novel of the same name, Bridget Jones's Diary, Bridget, slightly overweight, in her thirties and insecure, desperately falls in love with her boss, Daniel, a charming and dashing man.

Bridget's desperate goal is to have a romantic relationship with him, which ends up disappointing for her, when she discovers him cheating with another woman. Devastated, she begins to see Mark, a quiet and shy man. Eventually Daniel wants her back and this creates a three-way love triangle. The dramatic question of the screenplay is will Bridget choose the right man as her lover?

In another romantic comedy, Sleepless in Seattle, the goal of the main character, Annie, is to find Sam, a widower who lives on the other side of the country in Seattle. After she listens to his son's plea on the radio to find a wife for his father, she becomes truly motivated to finding this adorable boy and his father. Annie's desperate goal is to meet Sam, with whom she believes she loves and is the woman destined to be with him and his son.

In both Bridget Jones's Diary and Sleepless in Seattle the main character has a desperate goal, not only for love, but love for a specific character and the hopes it will be reciprocated. If you write about your characters wanting love it must be directed to a specific character and not used as looking for love in the abstract.

In a script, your audience must be hooked by the first five to ten minutes or the first five to ten pages of your screenplay. They must be involved with your main character and his or her immediate goal. If you don't succeed in hooking your audience at once your story will have failed, because your audience won t have anyone to root for.

Your main character must always have a goal he or she desperately wants to reach. By giving the main character a desperate goal to reach you'll get your audience's interest, and hold it until the end of your film.

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