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Why You Hate Story Structure

"Story structure doesn't matter as long as the idea is good"

"The audience doesn't care about all these rules."

"Structure is like a prison!!"

I used to say all these things, and more. I had every reason under the sun to not pick up a screenwriting book.

Would you believe me if I told you I only learned story structure so I could learn how to break it?

Once I realized structure is a box of tools rather than a box you're trapped in, writing became so much easier.

In this blog, we'll get into the basics of:


If you hate story structure, you're probably someone who doesn't like confining to rules. You're a free spirit. You go against the grain. Dare I say... you're a bit of a rebel

But wait, you little rebel, you... If you don't know the rules, how can you break them?

You may think inspiration and natural storytelling abilities are enough to write a script. 

In a sense, you're right.

Natural storytelling abilities play a major role in writing a screenplay.

And everyone on earth knows how to tell stories.

We do it every day -- from talking about that annoying thing that happened at work, to telling your friends about the hilarious episode of Housewives you just watched.

So now you're wondering: if we all know how to tell stories, why do we need to learn a specific way to do it?

Well, let's look at it like this...


If you robbed a bank, the story you tell the cops and the story you tell your lawyer are going to be very different.

It's the same with storytelling in your life vs storytelling in a screenplay. There's a specific way to reveal information that better suits the story you want to tell.

If writing a screenplay is the cops, and storytelling in your life is the lawyer, it makes more sense why some of us hate the idea of conforming to a structure. You have a lot more leeway with the lawyer.

But let's forget you robbed the bank -- for now. I'm letting you off with a warning this time.

Let's take a look what's in the box... of the essentials of story structure.

Every story ever told follows the same structure: beginning, middle, end.

A good story ensures the beginning, middle, and end are all equally enticing, never dull or overlong, creating a narrative that takes the audience on a streamlined journey alongside the protagonist. 

In your life, you have heard, seen, and read countless stories, so you innately understand the rhythm of good story structure. If something is off, you will feel it, even if you can't identify exactly what it is.

Story structure isn't about implementing specific rules from books like introducing supernatural aid, saving the cat, or having a third act twist.

Not every compelling story has those elements. 

Nor should it...

If a script did somehow contain everything all these screenwriting books say is necessary for good structure, you'd have a pretty insufferable movie. 

Can you imagine trying to shoehorn in a mentor character for Brad and Janet in Rocky Horror Picture Show? All the charm of discovering this weird new world through their eyes would be lost.

But what all these screenwriting books and rules have in common is that they lay out a rhythm of plot points that is proven to support great stories.

Structuring your story is about finding the right flow for your plot, not about mutating your script to fit a specific structure.

In my next post, I'll lay out the 5 key points all films have, and dive deeper into the importance of the timing of plot points.

115 views2 comments

댓글 2개

Charleen Snider
Charleen Snider
2월 19일

This is a good way to look at it. Thanks!

2월 19일
답글 상대:

glad it was helpful!

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