By applying screenplay structure to your novel and incorporating compelling heroes/heroines, internal and external desires, and conflict, your characters will be able to obtain their goals.
One of the quickest ways to see story structure in action is to watch movies. No matter the length of the movie, the five key turning points will happen at the same place (%) in the movie.
I’ve broken down the romantic comedy 50 First Dates, a film by Peter Segal, for my examples. I’m using the hero Henry Roth (played by Adam Sandler). This movie is 100 minutes long—note the minutes at each percentage and what happens.
Each act is broken down into percentages.
ACT 1 (0%-25%)
0-10%: Stage 1 – Setup
- This stage must grab the reader’s attention.
- The hero or heroine (H/h) must be likeable: sympathetic, humorous, and or powerful.
- Showing the H/h in their everyday life the reader must see their character flaws.
10%: Turning point 1 – New Opportunity
- In a romance, this is where the H/h meets each other;
- The protagonist meets the antagonist;and/or
- The dead body is revealed.
10%-25%: Stage II – New Situation
- During this time, the H/h reacts to their new situation.
- As the conflict builds, the H/h realizes that he must change his plans.
ACT II (25% – 75%)
Turning Point 2 – Change of Plans (Desire/Goal/Motivation Defined)
- At the end of this stage, the H/h defines their desire.
- The story goal is defined.
- The H/h outer motivation is revealed.
- During the progress stage, obstacles to achieve the GOAL are easily overcome.
- The H/h could return to their old life.
50%: Turning Point 3 – Point of No Return:
- Once the H/h passes the 50% mark there is no going back.
- They fully commit to their goal.
- This is when the H/h stop acting from their flaw and are rewarded with sex.
50%-75%: Stage IV – Complications and Higher Stakes
- As a result of passing Point of No Return, the conflict heightens and the H/h has a lot to lose. The goal becomes difficult to achieve.
- As the conflict continues to build, the H/h sees their goal in reach, but at the end of this stage suffer a major setback called the Black Moment.
ACT III (75% – 100%)
75%: Turning Point 4 – Black Moment
- Black Moment is when the H/h confronts their fears and what they desire most is taken away.
- They are stripped of their flaws, but they see the truth and accept to move on.
75%-90%: Stage V – Final Push
- In this stage, the H/h must face the biggest obstacle;
- Conflict is overwhelming;
- The pace is accelerated;
- Everything works against the H/h until they reach the Climax.
90%: Turning Point #5 – Climax
- They must face the biggest obstacle of their journey.
- The H/h must determine THEIR OWN FATE SEPERATELY
- Outer motivation must be resolved.
90%-100%: Stage VI – New Life
- The H/h objective is resolved.
- The H/h gets their internal and external goal (if you’re writing a happily-ever-after HEA)
- But because the H/h has changed, the resolution of the H/h goal is not exactly as they originally expected.
Try applying this method to other movies—it’s fun!
Now open a book and search for the turning points, or better yet, create a story of your own using the Three Act Structure.
Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!