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Screenplay, Teleplay and Novel Structure

The formula to life — wake up everyday and breathe. 

Yet, I hear people talk about creative writing structure like it’s the kiss of death. Quiet the opposite.  Formula is life. Always important, and very misunderstood.

The problem comes from lazy writers who think formula is all you need. Formula, or structure, is the beginning. The skeleton of your story. Without a strong skeleton, bones break. Way too easily. For writers, that means, logic goes out the window. This is precisely why having a solid structure is the starting point.  

The formula to life — wake up everyday and breathe. 

Life is pointless if you don’t wake up. YOU. The hero. 

When people ask — what’s more important, character or story? I explain; THEY are the same thing. They cannot survive without each other. There is no story without character and there is no character without story. It is safe to say that our lives are formula. Our lives have an innate structure called story. This is what Joseph Campbell studied. The stories of our lives. 

The hero’s journey starts at the top with the LEFT Screenwriting Structure Card — Opening Image —  and continues counter-clockwise. You’ll notice that the Opening Image and the Final Image are almost the same, yet absolutely different. That is the ‘feeling’ you want to convey. At the beginning of the story, we are blind to something – we cannot even see how we play a role in our own situation. We have not accepted our own power. 

The story, and journey, come full circle, ending in such a way that shows how the hero has changed as a result of this journey. The Final Image card now reflects the wealth of knowledge the hero has gained. Instead of empty holes, he can now see life. 

Storytelling is a metaphor, and nobody understood that better than Joseph Campbell. These steps are not necessarily literal, although they can be. The power of storytelling comes in its ability to connect with us in an emotional way. The most powerful way to connect with us emotionally is to disguise what you have to say. We tune out when characters lecture us. Do not try to use your story to lecture and teach, save that for your documentary or classroom.  

Use your story to deliver compelling emotional truths that relate to our core wants and needs. Disguise those truths in metaphors, delivered through actions by flawed characters who represent us.

If you can do that, your message will arrive in an emotional way, not a theoretical manner open to academic debate. 

Learn more about the Screenwriting Structure Cards here.