Screenwriting can be divided into two basic parts: the actual writing and the dramaturgy.
The writing itself is for the artist to do; there are no rules, no magic recipes to apply, no golden ticket. The way one screenwriter might execute a particular piece of action or dialogue subtext can be vastly different from another screenwriter.
But what is the second part of screenwriting: the dramaturgy? It’s the theoretical, cerebral, rational, and scientific part. The screenwriter uses practical strategies and time-tested models to help develop and design a solid blueprint for the composition of the screenplay.
“In the first act, it’s who are the people and what is the situation of this whole story. The second act is the progression of that situation to a high point of conflict and great problems. And the third act is how the conflicts and problems are resolved." - Ernest Lehman
Lehman is quite succinct in his broad stroke framework of the whole structured screenplay. There is, of course, much more to the final structural design, and in this section, you’ll learn the necessary tools to flesh out your acts and sequences and pin point your major plot points: the inciting incident, the lock-in, the first culmination, the resolution, etc. Understanding these elements are a great help in outlining a solid story foundation to build a great screenplay upon.
Give a carpenter a truckload of tools and a bunch of wood; he'll build something. But hand him structural blueprints as well, and the end result will be amazing. Screenwriters work the same way, and the outline is your screenplay's skeleton.
Screenwriting is a unique version of writing, and this outline can be crucial to keeping you on track.
“Leaves of three, let them be.” A helpful little phrase when it comes to avoiding poison oak in the woods, but when it comes to your screenplay, three absolutely is company. This is the core of screenwriting.
Three Act Structure is your framework and the almighty epoxy of the screenplay. These three parts, often literally taking place in different worlds - physically and/or figuratively - can work independently of each other, yet when connected, they build a solid whole.
“Sit, Sequence. Sit. Good dog.” Woof! Okay, so sequences might not be not be our favorite four-legged friends, but they sure are killer gifts to the screenwriter.
In screenwriting, a sequence is a self-contained unit of action in your screenplay, usually between 10 to 15 pages, that has its own specific tension and an event around or towards which it is focused.
"The structural unity of the parts is such that, if any one of them is displaced or removed, the whole will be disjointed and disturbed. For a thing whose presence or absence makes no visible difference is not an organic part of the whole." - Aristotle