HOW TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY: 1. DAMON LINDELOF ON STRUCTURE
Our new series will see guest contributors teaching us step by step how to write a screenplay. In this first article, Damon Lindelof explores the mechanics of structure.
Structure is all important. At its most basic it is a three act structure. A beginning, a middle and an end. Morning, noon and night. Birth, f*cking and death:
Act 1 Something happens
Act 2 Polar bear, and then
Act 3 something else happens.
Of course, three act structure will only give you the big picture, the tent poles on which you need to stretch the canvas with which you are going to paint the cinematic town red will come later. And metaphors are important too. So after getting your three acts, you’ll need to have another two for the fuller five act structure.
Act 1 something happens
Act 2 something happens [Act 2 of 3 act structure]
Act 3 other things happen [Act 2 of 3 act structure]
Act 4 something else happens [Act 2 of 3 act structure]
Act 5 ‘resolution’.[Act 3 of the 3 act structure]
And within this you need character arcs (or sometimes called trajectories). You’ll have about three or four main (or A characters) characters even if you have a few more B characters.
So now you have:
Act 1 Something happens. Type A Protagonist(s) established
Act 2 something else happens Type A protagonist(s) has a problem/mission/dilemma/loses his dog
Act 3 other things happen (Doesn’t matter what: scientists take their helmets off in alien environment, for instance) Type A protagonist(s) has sex with Type B character (usually a ‘woman’)
Act 4 something else happens) Type A Protagonist learns something about themselves or Type B character or not
Act 5 [Act 3 of the 3 act structure] resolution: Type A protagonist realizes they’ve all been dead all along.
Next week Quentin Tarantino discusses writing ‘character’.