Screenwriting, Screenplays, Screenwriters - Writing a Screenplay Using Structure

Effective screenwriting relies on the good understanding and use of structure.

Inexperienced screenwriters may believe that structure inhibits creativity, but experienced writers know that following a template helps them to problem identify, generate ideas, select good ideas and develop them to reach that all important words-on-paper first draft ? structure is not a hindrance but an enhancer of creative output.

If doubts about structure still exist, then they are soon eliminated ? when screenplays are presented to decision makers for evaluation, writers soon learn that structure becomes an important part of the evaluation process.

A writer, through an individual and tortuous process of trial and error, may develop templates, or he or she may use one of the classic templates such as the Hero's Journey. But a writer will rarely admit to the use of templates (it reduces the perception of originality) or he or she may be only mildly aware that they are following a process.

The Classic Hero's Journey story structure template contains 106 sequences and more than 30 in the final act alone. It is an evolution of Campbells' original model, containing only 17,18 or 19 sequences, depending on who the interpreter is.

There is a theory that there are only five jokes in the world. Similarly there is a theory that there is only one story in the world. An analyses of nearly all the stories produced by Hollywood bears this out from a certain perspective and the Hero's Journey would be this universal template.

But from the one universal template are derived many descendants, and one of those is the NO WAY BUT DOWN story structure. In it, the anti-hero heads for self-destruction as a result of his own misdeeds and the betrayal of a shape shifter, allies and goddess et al. It is more exploratory of the darker side of human nature and behaviour and there are no happy endings?but it still makes for a fascinating story.

The Classic Hero's Journey and the No Way But Down story structure templates can be found at

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Kal Bishop, MBA


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Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached on

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