Posted by: steveonfilm | December 10, 2009

Pride is Forever: Day Four

Set up. Confrontation. Resolution.

Chapter four of “The Screenwriter’s Workbook” is titled The Paradigm. It’s the first chapter where you begin to get into some of the inner workings of how Syd suggests writers structure their screenplay. It’s the first time you’re introduced to the three act screenplay structure, as well as plot points one and two, and what they’re used for. It’s a great chapter to read, even as a refresher, since it outlines the purpose of each acts, and Syd uses some great movies to make his point (Collateral, Thelma & Louise, The Shawkshank Redemption).

Syd goes to great pains to explain that the structure he outlines in The Paradigm is not set in stone. He explains that The Paradigm “…is only a model, an example or conceptual scheme.” This was something I failed to grasp when I first started to use The Paradigm as a tool to help structure my screenplays. In fact, if you look back in the blog, you can even see instances of where I write about struggling with it. I was too concerned with “hitting my marks” instead of making sure that the story was working.

Syd uses “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” as an example to show how the The Paradigm works. Act one is life in the Shire. Plot point one is Frodo and Sam leaving the Shire. Act two is the trip to Rivendell and the Fellowship being formed. Plot point two is when The Fellowship leaves Lothlorien. Act three is Frodo and Sam beginning their journey. It’s a perfect illustration of a beginning, middle, and end. Set up. Confrontation. Resolution.

Syd gets a lot of heat for this “formula,” as do screenwriters who follow it, but like I’ve stated before I think it’s a technique/exercise that really opens up the world of screenwriting to the first time or inexperienced screenwriter. It’s something that really gets a screenwriter thinking about how to structure their story. None of the paradigm is set in stone. It’s flexible. And can bend to meet the need of the story. But I still think it’s a great exercise for a writer to go through, even if it only serves as a starting point for them to start to flesh out how their story is going to move.

The exercise at the end of chapter four is to take your story idea and structure it using the paradigm. I’ve written about how “Pride is Forever” could be structured a bit in some posts a few weeks ago, so I’ve already got a good grasp on how I want it to work. Regardless, I’m still going to take the paradigm worksheet available on Syd Field’s web site and build it out. I’ll post up my results tomorrow.

Until next time, keep writing!
-Steve

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