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Characteristics of a Good Screenplay Essay

Three important considerations of drama are: good story, good plot and good structure. Explain how a screenplay model incorporates these in its features.

A screenplay can be an original piece (Original screenplay), or based on a true story or previously written piece, like a novel, stage play or newspaper article (Adapted screenplay). At its heart, a screenplay is a blueprint for the film it will one day become. A screenplay focuses on describing the literal, visual aspects of the story, rather than on the internal thoughts of its characters. The average page count of a screenplay comes between 90 and 120 pages.

For one to have a good screenplay and an excellent example that deserves to be imitated, a good story, plot and structure must be put in place.

The Story

Writing a screenplay or screenwriting, is telling exciting stories about exciting people in an exciting form. A common formula is: (Character + Want) x Obstacles = Story A good story is about an interesting protagonist (character). Except in situations where the story is about more than one person, the protagonist of a story is easily known; he or she is the one the audience cares most about. For example; James Bond, Superman etc.

The protagonist usually wants something badly (objective) and most times, gets trouble achieving it (obstacles), and the story is worth writing because it illustrates some kind of universal message (theme) that people can empathize to. Some people have suggested that in order for successful development to occur, it is advisable to use a story questionnaire to explore story scenarios and ask for ways to uncover the answers that will guide one through the story. In writing a good story, it is expected that the writer knows the end of the story even at the beginning.

The power of vivid and revealing descriptions can never be over emphasized, every single thing conveyed about the characters’ appearance and surroundings can help reveal or reinforce another facet of who they are and what they become in the course of the screenplay. This can be achieved by using sensory details(sight, smell, touch and hearing) in description.

The Plot

A story’s plot is what happens in the story and the order it happens in. For there to be a story, something has to move or change. A plot is the road map that takes the story from point A to point B. This change could be a physical event, a decision, a change in person, a change in the audience or reader’s understanding of the situation or the fact that nothing will ever change in the character’s life.

The plot is the sequence of events in the story from the beginning to the end (timeline). Usually the order of events is: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement (final revelation)

The Structure

The structure is a way in which different parts of the story link together. It is very technical and the format is usually the same everywhere. The screenplay is structured in such a way that it has a beginning, middle and an end (Act I, Act II and Act III). These elements are called the set-up, conflict and the resolution.

“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

Putting all these important considerations into place, a screenplay model is gotten. From all the notes that I read preparing for this assignment, I understood that the screenplay model is universal in a way. Even with alterations and changes, a great Screenplay model would basically depend on:

1. The Protagonist 2. The Antagonist 3. The Desire of the characters especially the protagonist (internal and external desire). “Somebody’s got to want something; something’s got to be standing in their way of getting it. You do that and you’ll have a scene.” – Aaron Sorkin, writer of popular TV series The West Wing 4. The Inciting incident: This also usually awakens the desire. For example, the protagonist watches when his mother is blown up by a car bomb and swears to revenge her death. That becomes his desire.

5. The Journey, the protagonist goes a through a journey and changes. 6. The Crisis: The crisis occurs when the hero’s final dilemma is crystallised, the moment they are faced with the most important question of the story; just what kind of person are they? This choice is the final test of character, because it’s the moment where the hero is forced to face up to their dramatic need or flaw 7. The Climax: Historically it is sometimes referred to as the “obligatory scene” (a term coined in the 19th century by French drama critic Francisque Sarcey). This is where the protagonist finds a release from his predicament, it is the final showdown with the antagonist. 8. The Resolution: here all the knots of the plot are untied and unravelled. It is either the protagonist lives happily ever in the case of most romantic movies or that the hero dies tragically or as is becoming commonplace recently, the ending is left open in a way that the audience interprets whatever ending that suites them.

A screenplay must be formatted, majority of the script is made up of just four elements which are: the sluglines, action, character names and the dialogue. When one knows how to format these four and the manner in which everything is written, it becomes easier to get a good screenplay.


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