Using Breakdowns In Your Work


How to Use Breakdowns.

Now that I’ve given you some examples.  Try to do a few for yourself.  Watch some films and see if you can pick out the 20+ moments I’ve listed above.  While you’re at it, note the elapsed time when these moments occur.  General convention is that one page of a script equals approximately one minute of screen time.  If you write down when each moment happens, you’ll have an idea of around what pages it occurs.

Create a Template for Your Script

Once you know your basic story and the genre within which you’re working, you can start creating a template for your movie.  A template is not a formula.  It is not a prescribed set of rules.  It’s an guide for you to understand what kind of story you’re trying to tell and what elements must be included in the script if you hope to achieve commercial success.

Create a Database of Movies

The reality of screenwriting is that it is both an art and a craft. The craft is the ability to tell a story that is compelling and original while fitting into a specific commercial format.  The art is making it universal and emotionally honest within that format.

The way to understand the rules that you are up against is to look at other movies and/or scripts like the one you want to write and look at which of those breakdown story points are similar in all of the movies.

How to Choose

When selecting your database, try to come up with at least five movies.  Ten is better, more than ten is phenomenal.


Start by selecting films that are in the same genre as the script your writing.  For a list of the different genres from an earlier blog, go here:__________________


Then narrow it down by plot.  Try to pick movies that have similar plots.  For a list of the different plots from an earlier blog, go here:__________________


Once you’ve got the genre and the type of plot, try to find films that have characters like yours.  Especially Protagonists and Antagonists.  Seeing how characters in other films are revealed can help you understand what you need to be revealing about your characters and when.


Other Distinct Qualities

If there are any other specific and essential qualities to your story that have been addressed in other films, you might want to look at those as well.  Understanding how similar world or events or characters are defined can only help you understand what you need to put into your script.

Crunch the Data

With ten or movies on your list, you will able to start to see patterns amongst these films.  Because of their genre similarities, they’ll all run about the same length in time.  They’ll have similar numbers of characters.  And most importantly, they’ll have similar plots turns.

Each movie will have its own, unique and discreet set of events that pertain to that story; but they will happen more or less around the same time in all the films.  This means that they are falling into the same place in their plot structures.  It’s up to you to figure out what that specific event or information is in your story and where you need to place it.

Using Structure Templates

Using your structure template, you will come to understand what events, twists and ideas need to be introduced in your story.   The characters, events and theme of your script should be wholly yours and stand on their own.  But creating a template will help you define what is needed in your plot before you get too deeply involved in the story.

Use It to Check Your Work. 

If you notice something happening at the same time point in all the films in your database and that event is not happening in your story, it’s a pretty good guess your plot is missing an element and you’re not ready to write yet.

That’s the point of creating and using these templates.  Before you start writing, know what you want to say and how you want to say it.  That’s what writing smart is all about!

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