Secrets from Hollywood: Story Structure Made Simple
Updated: Jan 17, 2021
Think of a time when something difficult happened in your life, or you had a problem
but you found a way to sort it out. Can you think of a story or part of a movie where problems just keep getting worse for the character?
Let’s watch a story about a character whose problems keep getting worse.
Watch and Learn: Short Film Presto
Where do the character’s problems start?
Why do they get worse?
How do the character’s ongoing problems help the audience to enjoy the story?
Would the story have been better if the character had only one small problem, or many problems?
Formula for success
This movie short follows a formula used by hundreds of successful writers, both in novels and for the big screen. Billy Wilder was the writer responsible for Hollywood blockbusters like Some Like It Hot, Witness for the Prosecution and Double Indemnity. His secret recipe for an effective three-act plot is this:
Act 1: Get your character up a tree
Act 2: Throw rocks at him / her / it
Act 3: Get him / her / it down again
Watch and learn
“The thing about Pixar, they don't do the 'trend is your friend.' They're really about timeless story telling, and that's pretty great.” —Bonnie Hunt, Actress and Director
Pixar had enormous success with movies like Toy Story and Finding Nemo, but before that, Pixar gained respect for making short animated stories with memorable plots and characters. Watch this trailer for the blockbuster Despicable Me 2, and let’s see how the 3 Act Structure works.
Watch and Learn Trailer, Despicable Me 2
How 3 Act Story Structure works
Act 1: Get your character up a tree
Gru and the girls are safe, Gru accepts a difficult mission, he partners with Lucy. Act 2: Throw rocks at him / her / it
Gru is attacked multiple times by world’s greatest villain, Lucy is captured, minions become evil. Act 3: Get him / her / it down again Gru and Lucy marry, the villain is gone, minions are normal, everyone is happy. Story Structure Activity for You
Here’s a six word story written by the famous writer and humourist, Robert Benchley -
Streets full of water. Please advise.
Using the 3 Act Structure, in a few sentences, create and plan your extended version of this story.
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