10 Screenplay Structures

Here’s what you need to know:

  • 3-Act structure: the most common structure, the story has a clear beginning, middle and end. Like a domino effect, one scene falls into another, into another, etc., until the end. It’s a linear story. (Star Wars)
  • Real-time structure: no breaks, no flashbacks, the story and events take place in the now. (12 Angry Men)
  • Multiple-time structure: individual linear stories are mixed up among each other. One story’s causality doesn’t necessarily affect the others. There is a shared theme between stories. (The Godfather II)

  • Hyperlink structure: like the multiple-time structure, except now all cause and effect are linked between stories. (Crash)
  • Fabula-Syuzhet structure: first you see the ending, then you see the events leading up to the ending. “Fabula” refers to the story, “syuzhet” refers to the story-telling. (Casino)
  • Reverse chronological structure: the story is sliced into pieces and then arranged to tell the story from the beginning to end which each scene (slice) told in order. (Memento)
  • Rashomon structure: telling the same story from different points of view/perspectives. (Rashomon)
  • Circular structure: the story ends where it starts and starts where it ends. (Back to the Future)
  • Non-linear structure: the telling of the story can jump backwards, forwards and sideways in time – it is NOT chronological. (Pulp Fiction)
  • Oneiric structure: uses dream-like visuals, explores the structure of dreams, memories and human consciousness. (The Tree of Life)

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