Whether you are a self-taught writer, in school, or reading books on your own, the structure of a screenplay is critical in the analysis of your professionalism. But which structure is “right?” Which structure should you adhere to in order to write the perfect screenplay?
As you might surmise, there is no magic formula for screenplay success. No secret pill will make your story work.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that a well-crafted story will follow SOME structure. And a very-well-crafted story will follow all of them.
Take one of the biggest films of all time: THE AVENGERS (AVENGERS ASSEMBLE).
Below, we can see how the script hits the beats in each of three popular structure models: Joseph Campbell’s, Hero’s Journey, Blake Snyder’s, Save The Cat, and John Truby’s, Anatomy of Story:
And there it is, all three systems presented side by side so you can compare them.
When you examine the list you’ll see that most of the time they don’t just touch on the same event in the story and give it a different name, instead, each system has many unique features. For example, there’s nothing comparable to Rescue from without in Save the Cat or Anatomy of story.
Opening image and Theme stated get you thinking about your story in different ways to Hero’s journey. So the actual number of individual beats/stages/steps once you take in account the ones which were doubled or tripled up leaves us somewhere in the forties depending upon your interpretations.
It should also be noted that both Save the Cat and Anatomy of Story have more tools to help flesh out a story and they are not covered here.