The importance of scene structure

August 5, 2021
Bob Eckhard


Hi all,

Sorry to be off blog just recently but I’ve been rewriting a feature that I planned out and wrote several years ago but it required an overhaul of its shape and structure. My problem being that it’s an epic biopic from the 19th C with interesting characters and charting several countries (Switzerland, France, Germany, Great Britain, America). Add to that relational dramas, crisis, conflict, death, glaciers and a mammoth – yes, you read that correctly – and it makes for a structural nightmare. So much so that I put it in my bottom drawer a few years ago as finding the right structure for it was doing my head in!

Anyway, it’s now nearing completion but one of the things that has helped me in reworking this project has been moving away from three act structure to tell multiple storylines from different times periods in an interconnected way – oooh. By that I mean hoping back and forth from present to past then into the future,  interspersed occasionally with a series of dream sequences. Sounds offbeat? Maybe it is – and the author as well! (Talking about myself in the third person would certainly suggest I am losing it!)

Now, what I found really helpful was a scene grid that I had developed using notes from a Luke Ryan session at London Screenwriter’s Festival a few years ago which you can download by clicking here. The above pic is the second of two planning boards in which 30+ scenes have been analysed to ensure the structure works.

Okay, you can download the grid template (in Word Doc) by clicking here

SCENE___              (insert scene number in space)

INT/EXT ?               Good scripts will be plotted so that EXT and INT scenes follow one another (if only as establishing shot)

Whose scene is it? Hero, Antagonist, Trickster, Mentor

S/he wants?          What is their objective in this scene? eg. lure hero away?

Achieved?             Is s/he/they successful in doing this?

Conflict Y/N.       If there is none and its not a transition short you need to rewrite scene of delete

Transition/show stopper/dramatic. Make sure there are  4 to 5 show stopper moments

Get what s/he wants? – Does the person (whose scene it is) get what s/he set out to achieve?

Scene is +ive/-ive – Does the character (whose scene it is) find success or are they thwarted?

Visceral/vicarious – does audience know or not know stuff as it happens – it affects emotions experienced

Story emotion is        -(highlight all emotions audience will experience in the scene)

  1. Interest
  2. Tension
  3. Curiosity
  4. Surprise
  5. Anticipation
  6. Humour
  7. Cliff hanger
  8. Regret
  9. Elation
  10. …………………….  (space to add those not shown but relevant for that scene)
  11. ……………………

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