Whatever the kind or genre, every great story has five fundamental but crucial components for screenwriting success. Both novelists and screenwriters can use them to engage readers and tell a compelling story. They connect to one another like building blocks to support and balance your story.
We’ll go over each component before demonstrating how to start writing (Part 2). You’ll get a checklist for the five components at the conclusion, which you may use to gauge how strong your script is.
The five components of a great story
The components of a great story are by no means hidden. They may have several names, depending on whatever narrative theory you consult. We’ll refer to them as character, want and need, plot, structure, conflict and resolution for the purposes of this introduction.
Character – Screenwriting Success
Every story requires a hero. What happens in your screenplay is determined by your protagonist or main character. There would be no story without the hero and their actions.
If your audience can relate to and root for your primary character, they will show interest in what you have to say. To put it another way, make a likeable hero. Your protagonist will be far from perfect when the story begins, but if you give them relatable traits, the audience will be motivated to read on. When we believe a character to be believable or real, we consider them to be well-rounded.
Humans are intricate creatures. Every interesting character has at least one defect or problem that needs to be addressed. Batman is a tragic hero, as suggested by the title The Dark Knight.
The plot can advance and grow when the hero has a problem to solve. An adversary, foe, or villain who serves as the antagonist to the protagonist might represent the issue. To better strengthen the plot, you can add secondary characters to the story. They make it possible for the hero’s character to develop or change.
Want and Need – Screenwriting Success
A story with a perfect hero would be uninteresting. The protagonist is defined by their wants and needs in every excellent screenplay. Wishes, dreams, and desires are the factors that drive the main character’s behaviour.
The thing that the hero wants and is pursuing is one thing. The real answer to their shortcoming or issue, however, turns out to be something else entirely: it’s their need that ultimately transforms their life. This paired story element is also known as the “premise and theme,” “A story and B story,” or “external story and internal story.”
In Ready Player One, Parzival is on a quest to find an Easter egg inside the oasis.
The exterior voyage may focus on the main character specifically and include thrilling action. The hero has to learn or alter something about themselves during the internal journey, which is more self-reflective and universal.
Finding love, trust, faith, or a human connection, accepting responsibility, getting over fear, accepting sacrifice, or simply surviving can all be part of fixing the hero’s defect. The main topic of Ready Player One is the protagonist forging relationships outside of the simulation.
Plot – Screenwriting Success
Your writing’s narrative or plot is a sequence of events where one thing leads to another and vice versa. The plot unites the incidents in your narrative and prompts the reader to wonder “why does it all happen?” The plot has an impact on every aspect of your writing, along with character.
Every excellent screenplay has a plot that adheres to a few common patterns or archetypes. The precise number varies depending on the storytelling theory. Only simple and complex plots, according to Aristotle, existed.
There are more distinctive story archetypes or master plots in contemporary techniques. The key takeaway is that each of these plots’ storylines have some things in common.
The quest storyline, often known as the hero’s journey or monomyth by American literature professor Joseph Campbell, is one such paradigm. Think of Don Quixote or The Wizard of Oz when you picture a hero who sets out on an adventure or a journey to find something, wins the battle after a pivotal crisis, and then returns radically altered or transformed.
There is no genre for the plot. For instance, the genre of romance categorises love stories in the broadest sense. The common thread in romance stories is a fortuitous or fateful meeting of two people.
They must face a number of challenges after falling in love in order to spend the rest of their lives together, either happily (Pretty Woman) or tragically (Romeo and Juliet).
Structure – Screenwriting Success
You already know the who and what of your story, including the wants and needs of your characters and those of the hero, as well as what will ultimately happen to them. Structure establishes order by defining what belongs where, resulting in a cohesive whole.
Structure and plot are strongly related. Events happen because of the storyline, and we determine their timing via structure. Timing is crucial in the straightforward beginning, middle, and end structure.
These three elements of a story are referred to by Aristotle as setup, confrontation, and resolution. This is the so-called three-act structure, which outlines key story elements and changes between each act.
Additional incidents with immediate or delayed repercussions will be included in your story. These are referred to as story beats. They serve as plot points that connect the various actions in the narrative. For various sorts of plots, so-called beat sheets depict these units and their timing.
With different storytelling schools of thought come different numbers and distributions of story beats. However, they always strive for the ideal rise and fall in the action that will keep the audience on the edge of their seat.
Conflict and Resolution – Screenwriting Success
The tension produced by a plot makes a narrative engaging and fascinating. A love story is about two people falling in love and staying together for the remainder of their lives. Much more appealing is a hero who pursues their love despite rejection.
In the movie Leaving Las Vegas, Ben and Sera’s love is undone by the very agreement that allows them to coexist: their promise to not alter one another’s life.
Your story will have tension because of opposition. An opponent might be a bad guy, a rival, a flaw in character, or even an external factor like society as a whole. By raising the opposing force steadily, you can heighten the tension.
Your hero is propelled by conflict to leave their current situation and seek change. As they grow, their needs begin to outweigh their wants, and eventually, they are completely transformed by the answer.
How do you start creating a story or script?
To find out, be sure to keep an eye out next week for Part 2 of this article! And, in the meantime, for further advice on how to develop your screenplay, check out our recent article ‘Writing A Short Film – A Step-By-Step Guide For Independent Filmmakers’!
Plus, you can also check out our very first FILMD Chats podcast episode all about screenwriting with our very own Craig Roberts, available right here!