Hmm, getting a bit difficult to crowbar the admittedly dreadful pun into the title.
Today’s post is kind of a split between yesterday’s one and tomorrow, but I feel it’s important enough to talk about in its own right. I’m going to talk about the structural framework of the script.
This one comes down very much to personal preference. There is no right way or wrong way to write a script. There are a lot of theories out there, and while there might be a number of established methods that work, it’s not an exact science. You can write a script based on every formula and rule that you’ve ever read about screenwriting, or you can ignore them entirely. You can ignore the basics (characters, dialogue, action) because that’s how scripts are written, but themes, structure and their ilk are personal preference.
That being said, good luck to you if you try and write one without things like that, because there are very important reasons why they’re established methods of screenwriting – they work. A theme will bring unity to your film, and will help to leave an impact in an audience’s mind, which is very important if you want your film to have lasting appeal, and potentially, replay value.
“Look, Ferrell, your Christmas shenanigans are entertaining, but why am I not being forced to think hard about the human condition?”
I guess to a point this includes things like the three-act structure or the hero’s journey interpretations of narrative, but the important thing to remember with those is that they derived from analysing stories after they were created, and have become popular because a lot of stories (if not all of them) can be broken down in these ways. What this means, unlike the theme and structure stuff, is that these can also be incredibly harmful to your story if you adhere to these methods slavishly, particularly the hero’s journey stuff. Everyone will talk about three-act structures in film, but don’t freak out if you don’t feel your story matches that – there’s got to be peaks and troughs, and escalation and the like, but don’t let these methods destroy your story because you think you have to stick to them.
The importance of structure comes down mainly to how well the final film will work. The more effort you put into making the plot work, and have plot points set up and paid off, and deliver information at the right stages in the right amount, the stronger your narrative will be. How you do this is another matter, it’s all about learning that through trial and error, but a good structure will really support your story.
Make your own judgement-based joke, I’ve punned enough for this entry.
The structure pass of a script is all about making sure this works, particularly with the balance of your scenes and subplots. As I said the other day, your main plot is your core, which you weave everything else around, and it’s the exact placing that becomes important. There’s a lot of different factors, like the imparting of information on plot or character development, or finding the right scenes to play together, for tone or pacing reasons, or to juxtapose together to help push your theme forward.
There’s not a great deal to add to our example from this, other than knowing, as this is the stage where you have to pitch the balance of scenes, and also ensure the subplots run through all of their logical steps, things at this stage will include making sure there are enough scenes of Alice to show the Bob-Alice relationship so that the audience will actually invest in it, but not too many as to strain the reality, as Alice does not go on the journey with Jed (unless we change Alice’s journey through the film).