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Old May 2 2011, 10:28 PM   #1
Maurice
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Fan Film Writer's Primer

I thought about folding this into the Fan Filmmaker's Primer topic, but concluded that the filmmaker's thread should be about the film production end and that the topic of scripting and writing really needed its own topic.

So, to kick this off, let's talk about a topic that was brought up several times in other threads of late (such as this one)...


The Three-Act Structure
A structure which is the basis for most modern storytelling in the western world. It divides the story into three sections, each of which has a particular sort-of meta function.
  1. First Act = Introduction
  2. Second Act = Complication
  3. Third Act = Resolution
Here are some simple to peruse examples and descriptions:
As with any rules for a creative process there's controversy about if Three-Act Structure is always a good thing, or anything but arbitrary.

Personally, I think a lot of writers use the Three-Act Structure because adhering to it gives stories a logical flow and helps avoid problems that are rampant in fan films: like deus ex machina solutions and unfocused storylines. As such, I recommend applying it to your scripts until it's second nature. At that point you can make educated decisions about something that you might think works better.

Sure, rules can seem stifling to creativity, and they can sometimes lead to predictability. HOWEVER, if you don't really understand such rules you won't be able to make educated choices about when and how to break them.

I could expound on this topic for a dozen paragraphs, but I'll wait to read some of your comments and thoughts before diving deeper.

SIDEBAR: TV Script Acts v. Three Act Structure
The "acts" in most TV scripts have nothing to do with the Three Act structure and everything to do with commercial breaks. So, a TOS script would contain a TEASER and FOUR ACTS. A TNG or DS9 script would contain a TEASER and FIVE ACTS.

Despite these scripts having five or six or whatever act breaks, the stories generally will follow the rules of three act structure. What differs is that at each commercial break there must be a dramatic "hook" to keep the viewer from changing the channel.

For this reason, I'll try to be consistent and always refer to TV teleplay acts in the form of Act 1, Act 2, etc., and three act structure in the form of First Act, Second Act, etc.
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Last edited by T'Bonz; May 3 2011 at 05:24 AM.
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