Plot points are the building blocks of a story and the vehicle that carries us on the emotional journey from beginning to end. Like stepping stones, each new plot point provides the next important thing that happens and brings us farther down the path as you lead us from one important moment to the next, and the next and then the next.
Learning to craft your story through action in this way is a critical skill in becoming a successful screenwriter and learning to ‘break’ a story with plot points is the key.
If your plot points are weak, your story will be weak. If they are unclear or confusing, your audience will be confused. If they are too subtle or repetitive, or even too predictable or intense, we become bored and disconnected. But if your journey is crafted well, your audience or reader will be emotionally involved and thoroughly hooked – and that’s what we all want, right?
I probably spend twice as much time as most writers breaking a story with index cards and never (ever!) turn my computer on until the structure of every plot, every subplot, and every character arc is there. I spend days or weeks doing this, and for a feature, I spend months. As a result, I often complete a script with a first draft and a simple polish. When a script fails it’s usually because the story structure is weak. So my advice to you is make sure you build your skills on how to work with plot points. Once you do, the rest will be fun!
So here’s this week’s exercise. Download a script from the internet and print it out. Get a colourful marking pen, and as you read through each scene, ask yourself, 'What is the single most important thing that ‘happens’ in this scene?'. This is usually the plot point and it will generally come at the end of the scene. Try to capture this action in one sentence and write it down beside that scene before going on to the next. When you have finished, read through what you have written. I promise, you will have learned a lot.
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