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Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

I want to understand how screenplays are put together better.  Can you assist me with that?

Elena from the Middle East

This week's Answer: 

The "Pro's" and "Ants" of Screenwriting

Elena, do you want to understand how screenplays are put together better or do you mean you want to better understand how screenplays are put together?  I'm going to assume that you are referring to the latter meaning.  To help you with this requested understanding, I shall provide you an allegory (not a "gory alley;" that would be for the thriller genre only).

An Allegorical Screenplay

We start with a pro tagonist.  (he used to be an amateur tagonist, but he went pro to reap the benefits of a higher tax bracket).  Now this pro tagonist (a tagonist is one who excels in tagging on things.  Maybe he's the one to blame for all those itchy collars and mattresses that don't let you remove anything from them.), this pro tagonist comes across an ant tagonist (ant tagonists are amateur people who tag things on to ants -- which is definitely a difficult operation that takes a steady hand and specialized tagging-on skills).  The ant tagonist causes the pro tagonist a great deal of trouble (a natural tension and animosity is present, especially since they're both tagonists and there could jealousy, envy, and competition between them.  I mean, how many tagonist jobs could there be?)  There's an inciting incident, a hook.  The pro tagonist is hooked.  Maybe the ant tagonist, while trying to put tags on ants, and uses hooks to do so, accidentally or purposefully (depending on whether this is a comedy or drama) hooked the pro tagonist.  Steaks are raised (possibly a barbeque is going on and, to check to make sure the steaks are done, somebody raises them).  As the pro tagonist confronts the ant tagonist, he rides in a big boat with many characters; that's his character arc, which he steers towards the shores of Final Confront Nation, passing plots of land that are all pointy (plot points), sometimes hitting some that are all twisty (plot twists).  Usually, finally, the pro tagonist overcomes the ant tagonist (professionals often beat amateurs so this understandable.  And people who are overly involved with ants usually don't win that much.  Unless they're pro antagonists (professional ant tag-oners).  Which would be a different story, all together (and much better for the ants).

But there's nothing wrong with writing a different story.  Especially this one.



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