star-wars-episode-4-advance-poster
So a few weeks back I was reading this amateur script and it came to my attention that I was bored. The source of my boredom was that pages upon pages were going by and not much was happening. This, I realized, could be construed as the definition of screen-reading boredom: NOTHING INTERESTING IS HAPPENING. If nothing interesting happens for too long, the reader either physically checks out (closes the script) or mentally checks out (starts skimming).

However, as I kept reading, it occurred to me that there WERE interesting moments in the script. They were just few and far between. It took forever to get to them. Hmmm, I thought. If only these moments could happen closer together, I wouldn’t be so bored. And that’s how I had my “Ah-ha” moment. These “interesting moments” were plot points. The reason I was bored, then, was that there weren’t enough of them.

Clearly, then, frequency of plot points has an effect on a story’s entertainment level. The more of them you have (within reason), the more likely your story is to remain entertaining. But how many plot points do you want in your script? And how many is too little? Well, before we get to that, we should come up with a definition for “plot point.” And in order to do that, we should probably look at some examples of plot points in movies. Here are a few prominent ones.

a) The emergence of a goal (Indiana must go find the Ark).
b) A shocking twist (Cole tells Malcom he can “see dead people”).
c) An upping of the stakes (they realize in Inception that if they die in the dream, they could be stuck in it forever).
d) A mystery is presented (Why is there a naked Chinese man in their trunk in The Hangover?)
e) A key character is introduced (Sgt Powell – the cop – shows up to help McClane in Die Hard).
f) A key character is killed (spoiler – Schultz is killed in Django Unchained).
g) An unplanned interruption of the hero’s life (Neo gets an urgent phone call from Morpheus at work).
h) The emergence of a threat (after the plane crash, the wolves start stalking our characters in The Grey).

Looking over these examples, I’d say that a plot point is any real significant CHANGE in the story from what’s currently going on. It could even be simplified down to one word: CHANGE. Whenever something happens that’s CHANGING the course of the narrative, you’re introducing a plot point.

Now, of course, plot points aren’t the only things that keep a story interesting. There’s character development, conflict, sharp dialogue, suspense. Still, a story’s success often comes down to how well it’s plotted, which brings us back to our earlier question: how many plot points should there be in a script?

That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer because I’ve never sat down and physically counted plot points during a movie (although since I’m writing an article about plot points, I probably should have at some point). But hey, that’s the fun part about running a blog. When you don’t know something, you write an article about it and figure it out. Let’s take a look at one of the best plotted movies of all time: Star Wars. There isn’t an ounce of fat in this plot, so let’s see if we can locate all the plot points, add them up, and give ourselves a plot point template for our own script.

1) The opening scene in Star Wars is technically a plot point because there’s an unplanned interruption. The rebels’ ship is captured by the Empire. Now as far as I’m concerned, every script should start with a plot point because you want to jump into your story right away. So the “opening plot point” should be a given. 2) R2-D2 and C3-PO escape the ship with the stolen Death Star plans. This is a HUGE plot point as it sets in motion the entire story, which is the Empire chasing Luke, the droids, Obi-Wan, and Han to get the plans back.

3) The introduction of Luke Skywalker. Now normally, you’d introduce your main character right away, so this is sort of an odd placement for this plot point. But it turns out to be another big one because…well because it’s our main character. Which keeps us engaged.

4) The droids are captured by the Jawas – This is a smaller but still important plot point as it changes the direction of the droids’ fortune.

5) Luke’s family buys the droids. This is sort of a unique plot point in that it merges two storylines, Luke’s and the droids. But it’s clearly a major one, since now the Empire isn’t just after the droids, they’re after Luke.

6) R2-D2 runs away. With R2 running away to find Obi-Wan, it forces Luke to act, changing the direction of the story.

7) The introduction of Obi-Wan. Introducing a character is always going to change the story in some way, but don’t just introduce someone to check a plot point off your list. Make sure they’re interesting and necessary to the story.

8) Luke’s aunt and Uncle are killed. This is another huge plot point as it motivates Luke to join Obi-Wan on his trip to Alderran.

9) The introduction of Han Solo.

10) The escape from Tantooine.

11) The Death Star blows up Princess Leah’s planet.

12) Han, Luke, the droids and Obi-Wan are captured by The Death Star.

13) Han, Luke, and Obi-Wan decide to go rescue the princess (who they find out is in the Death Star with them).

14) They successfully find the princess and get her out of her cell.

15) It’s debatable whether the trash compactor scene is a plot point but I’d argue it is, since it’s an unexpected set-back to their goal of escaping.

16) The group narrowly escapes the Death Star, and Obi-Wan is killed.

17) By dissecting the Death Star Plans, the Rebels find a way to attack and possibly destroy it.

Whoa! I did not expect there to be that many plot points. I thought there’d be about 8. Since there are roughly double that, in a 120 page screenplay, you’re instituting a plot point once every 7 and a half pages (and that ratio gets even tighter if you’re keeping your script close to that magical 110 page count). However, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. 8 pages is 8 minutes of screen time and 8 minutes is forever in the movie theater. It’s about the amount of time an audience will put up with before they need another big “moment” that changes things.  So in retrospect, that number feels just about right.

I also noticed a few other things here. First, there seems to be power in “doubling up” your plot points. Vader’s introduction would’ve been a plot point on its own. But since he’s introduced during another plot point (the Empire’s takeover of the Rebel ship), is has even more impact. We see the same thing when our heroes escape the Death Star, as Obi-Wan is killed in the process. An escape is exciting. But to add a death on top of that – it’s super impactful. So double up on those plot-points where you can boys and girls!

Another thing I noticed was how important it is to mix your plot points up. In Star Wars we have interruptions, surprises, mysteries, deaths, goals, unexpected character intros, raising the stakes. You need that variety to keep your story fresh. If you’re only introducing, say, mysteries for your plot points, your story’s going to start to feel repetitive and predictable. So mix it up!

It’s also important to note that not every movie is Star Wars. In other words, not every movie is a summer blockbuster where a lightning fast pace is required. Sometimes you’ll be writing a drama or a Western or a slow-burning horror flick. And these movies require a slower pace. If you’re going to dial back the flashy plot points, though, make sure you’re really good at those other things I mentioned (character development, suspense, dialogue, etc.) because you’re asking your reader to be more patient with you. And a reader only makes that deal if you give them something in return. Character development and strong dialogue are two of a number of variables that will be expected in that deal. Also keep in mind, even “slow” movies have more plot points than you think. You might not have all these whiz-bang “summer movie” plot points popping up every 8 pages. But you should still have SOMETHING happening. For example, instead of your hero’s father being massacred by the villain, you may offer a more cerebral plot point (a character realizes that someone he trusts has been lying to him their entire relationship). So SOMETHING should still be happening.

Also remember that your plot points are only as effective as a) how clever they are b) how original they are, and c) how clear they are. If you’re just throwing a bunch of plot points on the page for the sake of having plot points, we’re going to get bored. Or if you’re throwing in derivative boring cliché plot points, we’re going to get bored. You still have to come up with interesting plot points, just like you have to come up with interesting characters and scenes and dialogue. Also, your plot points need to be CLEAR. I occasionally read a script with a ton of plot points – tons happening – yet all the activity leaves me lost. Ultimately, I realize that it isn’t that there’s too much going on. It’s that the plot points themselves are confusing or vague. Plot points are pointless unless we understand their impact on the story.

Finally, I understand that plot points can be a little confusing. My definition of them is by no means perfect, and encompasses a lot of different scenarios. So if you’re confused by this article, I’ll give you the Redneck version of plot points: “Make interesting shit happen every 8 pages or so.” If you can do that, your story should be entertaining. Good luck!

  • wlubake

    Note to Carson: the warning “Spoiler” is only helpful if the reader knows what movie is going to be spoiled. Writing “Spoiler: Obi Wan is killed in A New Hope” is very different from spoiling a movie that came out in the last few months.
    For future purposes, I would sugget: “Django spoiler:…” when dealing with a sprawling set of examples such as these (and all the prior ones were much older movies).
    I doubt the spoiler will overly affect my enjoyment of Django (not like that prick in high school that told me – 6th Sense spoiler – Willis was dead in 6th Sense), but it is worth noting.

    • Phil

      Maybe putting “SPOILER” in caps would help. I try to look out for that and avert my eyes. Great article, though. And that Star Wars poster has been my desktop picture for a few weeks now. Love it.

  • Poe_Serling

    PLOT POINTS…

    A great refresher course, Carson!

    A few years back, I stumbled across the Syd Field writing manual Screenplay and gave it the old once-over. Since it was published back in ’79, it’s kind of the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ of
    screenwriting how-to books.

    If I remember right, Field teaches that the ‘major’ plot points should happen around pages 25-30 and 85-90 in the body of 120 page script.

    So, based on CR’s suggestion of having something interesting happen every 8 pages or so, I guess the ‘major’ plot point mark of 24-32 and 80-88 still matches up pretty closely.

  • Cfrancis1

    Good article. I equate plot points to what we called Events in acting class. Basically, these are moments when the story reaches a point of no return. Every time something happens that pushes the story to a “point of no return”, that’s a plot point.

  • Citizen M

    16 plot points. Let’s see… eight sequences, each terminating in a plot point, each with a mid-sequence twist. That’s about right.

    I’d say a plot point is anywhere the hero is forced to make a choice or make a plan.

    “The job of the dramatist is to make the audience wonder what happens next.” — Mamet

    In a Mametian sense, a plot point is where you realise that what the hero is doing now isn’t going to work. He’s going to have to pull something out of the bag.

  • DD

    Solid advice. I love: “I’ll give you the Redneck version of plot points: “Make interesting shit happen every 8 pages or so.”

    When I’m plotting out my feature specs I definitely keep that in mind. Everyone wants a fast/interesting read. Plot points are a perfect way to make sure you’ll follow that story until the last page.

  • michael ferrari

    re: Luke’s late intro. In the shooting script (and the alan dean foster novelization) we cutaway during the battle down to Tattoine where Luke, Biggs and his friends are watching. So the script wasn’t bucking trends by delaying his intro, when the scene got cut it made it seem that way. Here’s the lost scene: http://brem.buzznet.com/user/video/17100/luke-skywalkwer-biggs-darklighter-anchorhead/

    • http://twitter.com/kinnygraham Graham

      The geek is strong in this one……

  • IgorWasTaken

    Re: #3. A character intro is a plot point???

    OK, if you don’t know that a big bad guy exists, and suddenly he appears, and by his very unexpected appearance, the plot changes direction, or is stopped, or the goal or a key character is clearly threatened… Then, OK. Yeh.

    But if you know a bad guy exists, then when he appears, that can’t be a plot point because it doesn’t, by itself, affect the plot. (Unless there was an open question as to whether or not he would ever appear.)

    And when we meet our protag, meeting him (or her) doesn’t change the plot – again, unless by his very appearance changes the plot.

    So, if that’s not a plot point, what is it? In the current context, it’s “interesting shit”. And as the late Mayor Daley used to say, “Early and often.”

    A plot point isn’t something that’s just important to the plot; it’s not something that (unknown to us at that moment) will change the plot later; rather, it’s something that affects the plot at that moment.

    Consider James Woods in Family Guy, whenever he sees a piece of candy. Each time he says, “Oh, a piece of candy!” – Those are not plot points. IOW, each time something new and interesting happens in a story, that’s not a plot point.

    Caveat: It seems there is no consensus as to what a “plot point” is. Still, whatever the definition is, the intro of a protag (by itself), IMO, is not a plot point.

    As always, YMMV.

    • Citizen M

      “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.” — Raymond Chandler

      • Somersby

        Love it. :-)

        • Citizen M

          Classic example. Rio Bravo.

          Page 1 describes a bar where Joe the bad guy taunts the sheriff’s old friend, now the town drunk, Dude. Sheriff John T. Chance intervenes and Dude hits Chance. Joe hits Dude, drinks, and leaves drunk. He walks down the street. People are afraid of him. A dog snarls at him. He shoots the dog’s owner and walks into the Mexican cantina. A typical fun night in the Old West. Then on page 2,

          INT. CANTINA – NIGHT
          The singer and his guitar fall silent. Mexican patrons of the cantina scatter out of Joe’s way. He goes to the bar and the bartender pours him a drink. He starts to drink it, sees the bartender staring over his shoulder, and turns.

          Chance stands inside the door. He is hatless, bleeding from a cut on the forehead. His rifle is levelled on Joe.

          Now THAT’S a plot point.

    • Yuri Laszlo

      Well, as they say in the industry, plot points are like assholes: everybody got theirs and it’s better if we can’t smell they coming a mile away. If that’s not actually said in the industry, then tough titties.

      Personally, I like to think of plot points (or very special points in the plot, if you don’t wanna put a label on it) as key moments in the story that advance the plot. In that spirit, the introduction of the protag is a majot plot point, because the circunstances of time/space he’s introduced are going to define exactly how we’re gonna see the rest of the story. We see the script through the eyes of the protag, and their intro scene is the only moment in the script where the writer is allowed a little freedom to tell us how the protag looks, how he speaks, to help us form a complete picture of the protag in our head in order to be able to react to what he/she sees the same way they do. So I do think the introduction of your main character is a Carsonian Plot Point. as it is essential both to they the story is going to unfold and the way we’re gonna digest it.

      • IgorWasTaken

        Yuri Laszlo wrote: “We see the script through the eyes of the protag,

        Sometimes. But most often, not. Unless the protag is in every scene.

        I realize there is no set definition of “plot point”, but at the least, it should entail something that is actually affects the plot. It is something that either changes the plot or tells us the plot will be changed because of it. When we meet Luke, we just meet him. That’s it.

        The plot does not change direction by his simply being introduced. It will change direction, but it doesn’t at that moment.

        EXT. TATOOINE – DESERT WASTELAND – DAY

        A death-white wasteland stretches from horizon to horizon.
        The tremendous heat of two huge twin suns settle on a lone
        figure, Luke Skywalker, a farm boy with heroic aspirations
        who looks much younger than his eighteen years. His shaggy
        hair and baggy tunic give him the air of a simple but lovable
        lad with a prize-winning smile.

        A light wind whips at him as he adjusts several valves on a
        large battered moisture vaporator which sticks out of the
        desert floor much like an oil pipe with valves. He is aided
        by a beatup tread-robot with six claw arms. The little robot
        appears to be barely functioning and moves with jerky motions.
        A bright sparkle in the morning sky catches Luke’s eye and
        he instinctively grabs a pair of electrobinoculars from his
        utility belt. He stands transfixed for a few moments studying
        the heavens, then dashed toward his dented, crudely repaired
        Landspeeder (an auto-like transport that travels a few feet
        above the ground on a magnetic-field). He motions for the
        tiny robot to follow him.

        LUKE
        Hurry up! Come with me! What are you
        waiting for?! Get in gear!

        The robot scoots around in a tight circle, stops short, and
        smoke begins to pour out of every joint. Luke throws his
        arms up in disgust. Exasperated, the young farm boy jumps
        into his Landspeeder leaving the smoldering robot to hum
        madly.

        • Yuri Laszlo

          Until the moment we know who the protag is, every story is just that, a story. When we first meet our protagonist, it becomes X’s story. If you start a movie with lots of German troops invading a ghetto house, it’s just a WWII movie. Once you introduce the little boy who was left behind, it becomes the story of a poor jewish kid struggling amid the terrors of WWII. It advances plot. Ergo it could be considered a very special point in the plot. The protagonist isn’t a MacGuffin.

          • IgorWasTaken

            http://www.imsdb.com/scripts/Star-Wars-A-New-Hope.html

            BTW, if, as you say, (a) we see the story through the protag, and (b) the mere entrance of the protag is a plot point, then (c) you’re saying his entrance is a plot point in his own story. Not since Being John Malkovich…

            BTW #2: I am not saying your argument/POV has no substance; I’m simply saying I think you (and Carson) are wrong about this.

    • tom8883

      “A plot point isn’t something that’s just important to the plot; it’s not something that (unknown to us at that moment) will change the plot later; rather, it’s something that affects the plot at that moment.”

      Yes. The story is the thick web of connections that will affect the plot later or already have affected it, whereas the plot includes the big moments of action happening right now.

      • IgorWasTaken

        And I think the way you put it is even better by referencing “story” and “plot”.

  • bluedenham

    That’s really interesting! Gives me something to think about. Normally, I break my scripts down into 3 acts of 15 page segments (Act 1 is two segments, etc.). From what you are saying, each of those needs to be broken down into 2 sub-segments as well. I suspect I do that to some extent; I’ll definitely keep it in mind going forward.

  • Xarkoprime

    Definitely an interesting read on the basics and a good way to spark intuition. Good stuff Carson.

  • MayfieldLake

    I believe that James Cameron is a master of plot points and sequences. One very successful Hollywood screenwriter told me that he learned everything he needed to know about screenwriting by studying James Cameron.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      James Cameron, who studiously applied to his scripts everything he read in a Syd Field book :-) Just saying he didn’t invent anything…

      • MayfieldLake

        Haha, true! Although it’s much easier to learn from example than by reading a book, imo. Personally, studying Syd Field can never teach me how to actually write, only how to structure.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          You’re absolutely right :-)

          I had a brief conversation today with someone not agreeing with me that Hitchcock was a master of pretty much everything because he stole everything he knew from Herzog. That may be true – all artists steal and borrow to a certain extent but I still believe that “shop-lifting” is not enough, you still need to know what to do with it. And Hitch sure did !

          JC didn’t invent anything either but he definitely has a great understanding for writing scripts and they’re a safe thing to study for any screenwriter :-)

      • Poe_Serling

        From James Cameron’s website The All and Powerful…

        Current Enemy List (updated 4/25/13):

        1) Kate Winslet – for badmouthing JC in every interview she has done since the Titanic wrap party.

        2) Harlan Ellison – for suing JC for stealing the idea of The Terminator from his works.
        .
        .
        .
        9) MZG – for making the mistake of saying JC didn’t invent the Plot Point paradigm and all other cool filmmaking stuff.

        10) Carson Reeves – for writing a plot point article without JC’s permission.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Ha ha ha :-D
          Thank you, that made my evening !
          Those initials are just… Well…

          I just watched the Korean DREAM HOME – too much gratuitous gore for very little story. A disappointement. I followed it up with HELL, a German post-apocalyptic movie that’s actually very good. It’s more in the vein of THE ROAD than MAD MAX – few characters, hostile environment, human despair…

          And I also received the Friedkin Memoir. Started reading it, pretty good so far.

          • Poe_Serling

            Korean horror, German Apocalypse, and Friedkin = A 100%
            natural NoDoz. ;-)

  • martin_basrawy

    Excellent article. Making stuff “happen” every few pages is a great way to keep a script moving and (hopefully) interesting.

  • JayRaz

    I’ve always thought of plot points as sort of a connect-the-dots on the hero’s journey towards his goal. They ought to be logical as in motivated by character but they should not be predictable. They should, IMHO, impact the hero’s inner journey (arc) and cause the hero to affect his external journey.

  • jlugozjr

    Nice article. I like the “every 8 pages or so” idea. Essentially every story is basically a group of plot points tied together, but it helps to remind us to keep shit interesting. The key is to make plot points feel organic to the story.

    As far as “if you’re throwing in derivative boring cliche’ plot points…” I had an idea for an article. It would be titled: “Is your story derivative?”

    After your review of The Purge, I was wondering if an executive/reader would respond to the story by saying “How is this different from The Strangers? It feels derivative.”

    Just an idea.

  • seanfast

    10) The escape from Tantooine.

    Uh, excuse me! I believe you mixed up Dantooine and Tatooine and combined them into Tantooine!

    • seanfast

      ::pushes up glasses::

  • http://twitter.com/jamesmparr James Parr

    Another way to think of plot points is to think of things that happen and how essential they are. If you took this moment out, what would you lose? More info about the character’s personal life or the moment he learned his father was still alive? If you think of a movie as an outline and you list all the things that happen in your script, the plot points are the important moments that move things towards the goal. They’re the bones of the story.

    • Citizen M

      I’ve heard scripts compared to roller-coasters. The equivalent of a plot point is where you are on top of the curve looking down and you realise you are in for a helluva ride.

      • IgorWasTaken

        Are you allowed to take a gun on a roller-coaster?

      • Malibo Jackk

        I’m feeling a need to watch ROLLERCOASTER (1977).

        • Poe_Serling

          Make it a great double-bill and add Earthquake (1974) to the mix. Today’s speakers are tailor-made for the Sensurround experience.

  • sweetvita

    I like that you call moments between the two key/major plot points “plot moments.” Dave Trottier calls plot points turning points. And for the sake of this conversation and Carson’s review, I’ll refer to them as plot points when citing Trottier’s insights on structure.

    He teaches that there are Two Key Plot Points, but your story may have dozens of plot points. Which is what you are referring to as “plot moments”, and I think that is Carson’s focus as he breaks down Star Wars – “plot moments” – the twists and turns in between the key/major plot points. Trottier states that the two key/major plot points are critical to your story’s success because they transition the story from act to act. The first key/major plot point takes place at the end of act one. And the second key/major plot point takes place at the end of act two. (He and Syd Field, along with you and PoePedia, have the same understanding.)

    From what I’ve learned, I’d like to add one more key/major plot point. It takes place at the mid-point of the story. I’ve heard it called the mid-point shift, and if I recall correctly, Carson has mentioned this in his articles, too. Here’s how one of my screenplay books defines a mid-point shift (although they call it a “Turning Point”). “The Turning Point is a bend in the road. Circumstances change and the original goal of your character is altered slightly or completely … This new goal can replace, work in tandem with, or take precedence over the first goal.”

    I love a mid-point shift because it keeps your story from playing the same beat all they way through – it mixes it up and should also raise the stakes, too. So I think a mid-point shift should be right up there with the two key/major plot points when crafting a story.

    And while we’re talking structure, we don’t want to neglect the character’s emotional journey either. Here’s a blurb from Trottier, “Each story–the Outside/Action Story and the Inside/Emotional Story–has its own turning points (or plot points) and structure. One is the main plot, the other the subplot. Hopefully, the two stories are intertwined synergistically.”

    Write on my fellow screenies ;)

    • grendl

      Good points all.

      I call them plot moments because they lead to character moments. Which in turn lead to plot moment which in turn leads to character moment.

      That’s how the engine of story works. Something happens outside the scope of a character’s power, they react, usually badly because stories entail a learning curve normally. If a character does everything right there’s no real reason to watch him or her.

      A shark attacks a girl ( plot moment), the chief of police finds her remains and keeps the beaches open (character moment-a bad one) leading to the killing of the Kitner kid (plot moment) leading to the slap in the face that brands Brody personally responsible and realization he has to do something more proactive, hiring others to do his dirty work for him ( character moment-still wrong as he’s not facing his bully like he should ) leading to the death of Ben Gardner, and discovery of the shark tooth in the boat (plot moment/midpoint shift ) leading to Brody leaving the beach open Fourth of July with shark patrols (character moment-still showing his cowardice sitting high and dry and safe on the beach ) leading to the attack of his son ( plot moment).

      It’s like a ping pong game, plot moment-character moment-plot moment in which Brody learns to play the game the hard way as people lose their lives because of his fear of water and reluctance to face his bully.

      You can’t have a shark attack. Then another shark attack, two consecutive plot moments without the character moment to react to the first. It would piss off the audience if they don’t see our representative onscreen react to the plot moment.

      Thats how I see it at least.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carson-Daves/100003247228938 Carson D

        +1

      • sweetvita

        Sweet breakdown. Agreed. As an audience, we learn so much about character through plot moments.

      • witwoud

        That’s an interesting way of looking at it, Grendl. We think of plots being driven forwards by the villain. But the protagonist’s refusal to do the right thing is as important to the story as the antagonists’s determination to do the wrong one.

  • http://the-movie-nerd.com themovienerd

    By Carson’s own account the plot points he has listed are even doubled up at given points, yet he does a basic averaging out of plot point per minute (or page) over all. Then he goes on assuming that plot points happen based on that average (1 per 8 pages) which he has already proven to be faulty based on the doubling up, let alone, as you point out, the actual “plotting.”

    Needless to say, when you are plotting, I’d say you should not stick to some strict “1 per 8 pages”– regardless of genre. You should plot it as quickly as you can (perhaps) but don’t worry so much if there are gaps I’d argue. Do worry if there are egregiously large gaps perhaps as that is a sure sign the story is not moving and something in the fundamentals is off (probably structural).

    I’d be interested to read the script that was the catalyst for this article as I’d wager there were some more fundamental structural problems that made the gaps from plot point to plot point stick out more than they otherwise would have.

  • K.B. Houston

    Love it. These types of articles are the best. I assume a lot of people read this blog to become better writers and learn things and this type of analysis does just that.

    The last line is the best. Shit just has to happen in your story in order for it to work. Even for romantic comedies, there are all sorts of relationship-based twists or changes that move the script along. Think of Annie Hall and how many ups and downs occur in Alvy’s relationship with Annie. You almost always learn something about their relationship with each scene.

    Bottom line: If you’re not developing the story your not writing.

  • tom8883

    The argument could be made that everything should be a plot-point in so far as a well-written script with zero fat only includes elements that either are plot-points, are coming off a plot-point or are setting-up the next plot-point.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Have heard two or three pros mention that they want something at the bottom of each page — to keep the reader turning the pages.
      (Makes you wonder why pros are worried about getting read.)
      (And why low paid, overworked readers have so much influence.)

      • tom8883

        It seems to pros would suffer more anxiety than amateurs (who aside from the money are completely free because they don’t have a reputation to ruin). A pro doesn’t want to hand something over to his/her agent that isn’t up to snuff. So they’ll work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. That includes giving each page something to make it worth turning to the next.

  • ripleyy

    I really loved this article. Very informative

  • ArabyChic

    I don’t think the sequence approach limits plot points that way; many of the “plot points” listed above by Carson would not be considered major turning points by the sequence method (introductions of characters, small action set pieces, etc, etc, etc.)

    The sequence approach shows that within the telling of the story, there are mini goals, which can be broken down to many actions, and then a consequence of that goal. When they fail, a new goal must be utilized. Most of the examples Carson uses are “moments”, but I wouldn’t call them plot points. Also, since there are 8 sequences to most movies, they are closer to 12 minutes in length, which shows how many different actions in each goal there are – each being a mini story of PLAN, EXECUTE, FAIL, NEW STRATEGY…

  • sweetvita

    I liken structure to the top 5 contestants on AI. There’s no question they all can sing well – they have the technicals down, great breath control, hitting all the right notes in the right key. But what distinguishes them from each other is their song choice and the emotion they put into the song. Did it move the hearer? Because if it didn’t, then it was just another pretty voice – that’s it – so what.

    People flock to the arts because they want to be moved – they want an experience. And as storytellers, that’s what we have to deliver. So not only is solid structure critical (the technicals) to crafting an engaging story, we also need engaging plot and characters that causes the reader to have an emotional experience. Otherwise we just have a screenplay that looks good on the page (solid structure – no big blocks of ink), which is important but not enough.

    This is a great community – and just sayin’ thanks to all involved for their input, including the top dawg for making it possible ;)

    Here at SS, we even get our own hashtag #appreciationfriday

  • srdiction

    The first season of Prison Break is a good example of shit happening every 5-10 minutes.

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