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7 on Structure # 3: Keeping It Up

Some writers are getting better at presenting themselves: they are realising that first impressions count. They’ve noticed that, to get taken seriously in some of the bigger circles (or even medium-sized ones), they need to start well in order to have a good stab at overcoming the sizeable competition they are up against. So they’re stating their intent; they’re setting up their protagonist and his/her goals; they’re formatting well and their script sails past page ten and into a full read. In short, their Act One rocks. Nice one. So what’s the problem?

They can’t keep it up.

I’m seeing more and more scripts where Act One is great, yet the moment – and I’m talking literally as soon as that first turning point comes in between page 22 and 30 [approximate] – things go wrong. There can be a number of reasons. Usually the plot begins to meander, though I’ve seen several go off at King Lear tangents and several others that have changed their plots and/or genres entirely.

How does this happen? I believe it’s because the writer is looking at their script more as a product – ie. getting it past the reader – than as a holistic story and subsequent plot in its own right. Many clients I read for don’t truly know what their story is about and this, plus that concentration on “beating” the reader is what is ensuring scripts “sag” like this.

I’ve spoken to some writers who say, “As long as I can get past the first ten pages and set up well, nothing else matters.” I would counsel caution on this approach however. The scripts that are set up well, yet go awry from Act 2 onwards are one of the biggest disappointments a reader can get. Only recently I read what started as an AMAZING script from *somewhere outside* Bang2write. Eighteen pages in, I was still going. I was hooked. Got to page 25…And everything stopped. It limped in at 92 pages of aimless journeying thereafter, making me wonder what had ever excited me about it in the first place. I even wished it hadn’t been so good at the beginning, so I might have not been disappointed. It was kind of like finding a hot guy, taking him to bed with you and discovering that actually, whilst he might look like an Italian Stallion, he has more in ahem, common, with a mouse. Damn!

Of course us Readers would sooner have the Hot Scripts just like us laydeez would rather have the Hot Guys. But we’ll settle for the “perfectly serviceable”, even if it doesn’t push all our buttons. Far better that then not wanting to finish and making a run for it out the bathroom window… And we’ve all done that, right girls? Oh. Just me then.

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13 thoughts on “7 on Structure # 3: Keeping It Up”

  1. The analogy I tend to use with structure in scripts is musical (ie, verse-chorus- middle eight, etc). What with her Italian Stallion, it appears that Lucy has discovered a much better one!

  2. I’m sure all script readers out there will agree: good scripts are like good sex… They leave you breathless, tingling all over and yelling “Let’s do it again!”

    Give me good scripts please people! ; )

  3. Keep it up? Italian Stallion? Haha, lucky we men have a great sense of humour!

    Interesting points these. I must admit, I’m guilty lately of thinking like the reader species. But that’s because i’ve been working on my script for such a long time and have read it over so many times that i’m getting impatient when i read it through myself. I think this is a good thing though.

    By the way i read your excerpt of script and thought it was really good. But i can’t remember where a chanced upon it, can you help?


  4. Thanks Paul, though I have no idea what you’re talking about — I haven’t put up a script excerpt for bloody years and certainly not on this blog I don’t think… Could it be another Lucy?

  5. Hello dear. Good to see you’re keeping busy at work. And your dinner is in the cat.

    Ah yes, forgot about this script excerpt entirely. Probably just as well, completely new draft these days. Funny isn’t it how you can be really excited about something, see it 15 months later and just DIE A THOUSAND DEATHS?!

  6. Ah yes, thanks anonymous, that’s the one.

    And lucy, this happens to me day to day, actually minute by minute. That’s either good for my script or i’m more than halfway to insane (oh I shouldn’t say that word(private joke!))

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