If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a good movie is worth a thousand pictures. Telling a story without words is one of the most difficult things to do well.

The reason for this is that the story is told through images and the images in your mind are only as good as the story they tell you.

This means that the screenplay needs to be crafted very carefully in order to tell its story clearly and efficiently.

Screenplay Structure Examples

What Is screenplay structure?

Screenplays are the blueprint for films, and they’re written in a format that’s different from the one used in novels or short stories.

Understanding how screenplays are structured is vital to writing one that can be sold to a production company.

Screenplay structure varies based on personal preference. However, there are three main structural points in all screenplays.

They can be divided into acts, sequences, and scenes. The basic idea of screenplay structure is that every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Commonly known as – Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3.



This common structure is also known as the three-act structure because many scripts are broken up into three parts – Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3.

First act – usually 30 pages long, which equals about 20 minutes of time on the big screen

Second act – this is where most of the action takes place. Usually 60 pages long or about 40 minutes of time on the big screen

Third act – this is where everything comes together for the climax and resolution of your script. This is typically about 30 pages long or 20 minutes of time on the big screen

A screenplay has five essential elements: external conflict (what happens to the character), inner conflict (how they react to it), dialogue (what they say), description (how it looks), and action.

Basic Screenplay Structure

The best way to approach this challenge is by breaking it down into steps and understanding each of these steps individually.

Step 1 – Concepts

The first step in writing a screenplay is coming up with an idea for it. It can be based on something very simple, like a dream you have or a conversation you overheard at work.

It can also be completely original, but I recommend basing it on something because this makes the idea easier to grasp and remember.

Step 2 – Script Planning

Once you have the idea, then it’s time to break it down into its core components so that you can understand how it works.


This will allow you to see what kind of story it really is and where its strengths and weaknesses lie. 

What Is Screenplay Structure?

The structure of a screenplay is a map, a blueprint, and a guide for the author. It guides the reader through your story. 

If you don’t know what structure is, you will have a very hard time writing a screenplay that makes sense to anyone other than yourself.

Gladwell argues that we tend to overvalue the things that are easily quantifiable and undervalue those things which are more difficult to measure. He uses the example of shooting basketballs at 10,000 shots per day versus one shot every two days with much more intense concentration on technique and mental skill.

What do you think? Is it better to practice something more briefly but with more focus or longer and with less intensity?

The Power Law of Practice states that in order to get good at something you need to practice it a lot more than you think is necessary.

The magic number Gladwell gives is 10,000 hours of practice. That’s how long it took the Beatles to be really good at playing their instruments, Michael Jordan to get good at basketball, Bill Gates to become an expert programmer and so on.

Screenplay Structure Characteristics

The screenplay structure is the skeleton of your movie. The plot, characters and setting are the flesh and blood. 

When you’re writing your script, it’s important to have a solid screenplay structure so that you can give your story the proper structure.

These are the three major components of a screenplay structure:

  • Act One: This is where you introduce your main character(s) and some sort of problem that must be solved by the end of the movie.
  • Act Two: This is where most of the action happens. It involves your main character trying to solve their problem.
  • Act Three: This is where the main character’s problem is resolved, or if it isn’t resolved here, then it definitely will be in Act Four.


Film Script Structure For Heroes

You have decided to write a screenplay. This is great news! The next step is to learn how to write a script that can be produced. Usually, it is an outline of a story, which will be shot from beginning to end.

Not every screenplay follows this formula, though. You might decide to use flashback scenes or different camera angles during one scene. 

This is because you are the person who will produce the film and you know what shots you want to capture.

Regardless of how your screenplay is going to look, there are some general rules that you should follow when writing your own script. Read on for more information about tips for writing the perfect movie script.

Imagine your screenplay as a house: you want it to be well-constructed so that it doesn’t fall apart when someone walks through it. All of the following items need to be in place if your script is going to stand up under scrutiny.

Characters – Your characters must be well rounded and believable enough that they seem lifelike on the page. They need flaws and strengths like any real person, but they also need goals and motivations beyond “they’re just there.” 

How To Structure A Screenplay

All screenplays are organized similarly. Each screenplay has three acts, with an introduction and a conclusion.


The middle of the screenplay is the body, where you describe your characters and plot the conflict.The first thing to know about structuring a screenplay is that it’s a blueprint for making your movie.

Treat it as such; be very careful not to change anything unless absolutely necessary. You’ll have a chance to improvise once you get on the set, but changing a story could potentially cost you hours of retooling.

Treating your screenplay as sacred is especially important if you’re writing a spec script. If you’re hired to write a screenplay based on another writer’s idea, then you’d better not mess up the foundation of that screenplay by doing something as silly as rearranging scenes or adding characters.

Not only does this add months onto production time, but it also costs money — and often jobs — when someone else has to come in and fix your mistakes.

Feature Film Script Structure

You can have an amazing concept for a film but if you don’t know how to tell it in a way that excites audiences, you’re going to struggle to get funding and find an audience.

The first thing you need to do is choose whether you are writing a short film or a feature film. This will help you decide which kind of structure will work best for you.

A short film is usually anything up to about an hour long. An animated short can be as long as 20 minutes and still be viewed as a short film rather than an animated feature.

A feature film is any film over one hour in length, including animated features or live-action films.

Different Screenplay Structures

Screenplay structure is the way in which the story of a screenplay is told. The beginning is called the exposition and it introduces us to the characters and the setting of the story.

The rising action comes next and this is when we see the conflict start to unfold between characters or between characters and their environment.The climax is often referred to as the turning point of a script or movie as this is where everything comes together to create a sense of urgency for the main character(s) followed by a falling action that leads towards the resolution.

A resolution could be seen as the final ending point for a movie but it’s not always necessary (there are some movies out there that leave you with more questions than answers, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad). 

The Hero’s Journey Screenplay Structure

The hero’s journey is a classic pattern found in many myths and stories. The following is a general breakdown of the three phases of the hero’s journey: from ordinary world to extraordinary world, from extraordinary world to death/rebirth, and from death/rebirth to return. 

You can use this structure for writing screenplays or even for creating a story in any other medium.

The Ordinary World Phase (Act I)

This phase introduces us to the protagonist, who may be reluctant to go on their adventure. This phase ends when the protagonist enters the extraordinary world.

The Call to Adventure Phase (Act II)

In this phase, the protagonist has entered an extraordinary world, but must decide whether or not he should accept his destiny. This phase ends when he actually accepts his destiny.

Refusal of the Call Phase (Act III)

In this phase, the protagonist realizes that he cannot escape his destin and must change his life to fulfill it. This phase ends with the departure into unknown territory.


At this point, there may be several more adventures as the protagonist gets closer and closer to his ultimate goal.

Approach Phase (Act III)

In this phase, all of the previous preparations finally come into play as our hero approaches his end goal.

Save The Cat Basic Screenplay Structure

Save the cat is a new approach to screenwriting that focuses on the core motivations of your characters. It will show you how to create solid, three-dimensional characters for any story, and how to structure your story for maximum emotional impact. 

Sometimes referred to as Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat Beat Sheet”, this approach can be used to structure a short story, novel, feature film or television program.

Save the cat is an invaluable tool for all fiction writers, and it’s fun and easy to use!There are no gimmicks or tricks in Save the cat! – just clear, concise steps that will lead you from initial concept to finished screenplay.

Snyder plots his movies out with inex cards on cork boards. If you choose to do so as well, that’s fine; however, you don’t need to spend money on expensive software programs to use Save the Cat!

You can also use this template as a writing guide for your memoirs or novels. Instead of characters, think about your setting. 

The basic questions are still effective and applicable – what is it about this setting that provides tension and conflict? How does this setting help define my protagonist? How does my protagonist react when he or she enters this setting?

Story Circle Screenplay Formula

The Story Circle is a simple yet powerful technique for creating an effective screenplay or movie.Draw  circle has no beginning or end; it goes on forever. 

In the center of the circle, draw a straight horizontal line and a vertical line intersecting it at 90 degrees. Now draw four equal-sized pie slices around the center, dividing the circle into eight equal parts.


The first part is the ordinary world (or “status quo”)—the normal way of life before the adventure began.

This section should show how the hero’s normal life was dull, difficult, or unsatisfying. The second part is the hero’s desire (or problem)—the reason he can’t stay in his ordinary world and must go on an adventure to look for something better.

The third part is the end of the world—the moment when everything changes and fate forces the hero to go on an adventure. 

The fourth part is emergence—the turning point when everything turns out alright in spite of appearances to the contrary.

The fifth part is transformation –the hero learns something about himself and how he feels about others as a result of what happened during his adventure; and he decides what he will do with this knowledge from this point forward.

Circular Screenplay Structure

A circular screenplay structure is a plot that comes full circle, ending at the same place in which it began. This method can be used to tell a story with a beginning, middle and an end or a beginning, an end and then a new beginning.

More often than not, the protagonist will experience some sort of change as the result of their adventure.The first step in creating a circular screenplay structure is to establish your set-up and introduce your main character.

The most common beginnings are exposition and action scenes because they are fast-paced and easy to write but they aren’t the only way to start your story. For example, you could start off with something small like the birth of a child or you can go all out with a huge war scene.

In order for your script to be successful, you need to give your audience something right away; either an action scene or something that makes them ask questions. If you take too long to get into the meat of your story, people will get bored and stop reading before they even get past page one.

A common misconception about circular screenplay structure is that it requires you to start from the ending and work backwards so that it all comes full circle.