How To Structure Your Story

I’ve always wondered how they do it. The famous directors who craft the events in a movie so perfectly that the viewers feel like they’ve seen everything they’ve needed to see, to be part of, and live through this story.

I’ve even tried to compare it to another structure I’ve studied, which is songwriting.

What’s interesting is that both the structure he uses and that of a general rock song's structure are quite similar. He breaks it down into 3 parts, with each part containing an A and a B section. A song usually has an intro, verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, and outro, which can almost fall into the same rhythm. For me, it’s been a lot of fun imagining writing a song with my camera when going out to shoot some video for a montage or B-Roll.

In this video, Film Riot’s Ryan Connolly takes us through how he builds a story structure and what he does to achieve the making of a film. If you’ve ever been interested in making a short film or video containing a story or narrative, this is a great way to get started. If you’ve written the plot, and you’ve got the events and need to put it all together, you need to watch it.

For him, it’s about either giving the viewer a setup or a payoff and every scene or character interaction tries to achieve one of these. He also views each of these 6 parts like a short film of their own. This makes it easier to stay focussed and not get demotivated thinking about the whole movie which I imagine can be overwhelming.

This structure is one I would definitely try out when developing a story, even if it doesn’t end up being filmed. It’s about having fun, practicing, and learning about something that’ll make you become good or even great at something.

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2 Comments

Peter Blaise's picture

It's not just the A-B-A-and-so-on, it's contents, where the first A is simple and the subsequent As build on it, all A-B-A-and-so-on building on each other's content interdependently.

A presentation first needs to get the audience on the same page as the storyteller.

And then there are curiosity-teasers to hook the audience, such as a gun in scene 1 ... when will it be used, oh my?

Storytelling is art and science, where insights such as these help with remedial editing more than with the original generative creativity.

But in editing our own prior work every day, our next day's creativity will be better informed.

Thanks for exploring this and sharing.
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Jake Rich's picture

Great insight into approaching a much larger project like a feature. It's always baffled me and scared me off starting something of that length but this structure makes it much more achievable :)