Need A Challenge?
by Jessica Brown, Screenwriter and Board Member of Phoenix Screenwriters Association


Butt in chair! Sit up straight! Save that cat! Get your story structure straight! Take a Coffee Break while you’re at it and Pay attention to the Signposts if you are going to create a Super Structured story!

What am I talking about? Story Structure. I know, I know, you are whining because you don’t want structure in your lazy days of summer. That’s OK, but your story needs structure no matter what time of year it is. Hear me out before you roll over and binge on a favorite show.

May 2023 was the start of a new series for PSA in the classroom. The series is designed to take you from Idea to Pitch over the next several months. You can join us anywhere along the process. Be prepared to put some work in. If you put your butt in the chair and do the work, you will have a great screenplay to pitch and your writing career just might take off.

Our first class started on May 6, 2023. Chris LaMont took 10 PSA writers through the process of how to put together a great outline for your story. Your’s truly attended along with John McCarney as mentors to the ten writers. Chris is the perfect instructor for this topic as he and his writing partner have sold multiple scripts using this process. John and I are both taking our next story idea through this process along with the 10 writers. We both love a good challenge. So far, we are loving this process. It flows well and is easy to execute on. This has inspired me for my own little summer program to mirror the series.

CHALLENGE: Build your outline.

TIMELINE: June and July


Screenwriting The Sequence Approach by Paul Joseph Gulino
This insightful guide uses the 8 beats approach. I have used this one several times. It explains in detail the origin of sequences, how a screenplay works and how sequences work within the structure of a screenplay. It uses multiple examples from famous movies to reinforce the sequence method across multiple genres. Great resource to always have on hand.

The Coffee Break Screenwriter by Pilar Alessandra
My all time favorite because it is so easy to use no matter where you are in your writing process. Pilar recently spoke at our Writers’ Conference back in April. Her approach to storytelling is brilliant because she breaks down all parts of the storytelling into easy to learn and easy to execute bites that even the busiest writer can take the time to learn. Her method also works off the 8 beats thought process and works for all genres. Be sure to pick up the 2nd Edition as she has added a lot of great material since her first edition was written.

Save The Cat by Blake Snyder
This beloved series of books has it’s fair share of haters and lovers. Probably much like the animal it was named after, you are probably in one camp or the other, not sitting on the fence. Chris used the first book in the series to teach for the Outlining Class last month. If you are not a big fan, take a second look at the first book. It guides you through a simple process of crafting your log line, building your five main turning points of your story, identifying and building 3D characters to identifying your 15 beats of your story to writing your professional outline that producers and filmmakers crave to read.

Super Structure by James Scott Bell
This resource talks about the 14 signposts that should be in your story. I always love a good James Scott Bell book on crafting and storytelling. He starts with clearing up a few misconceptions on story structure and on how both Plotters and Pants-ers can make his process work for their unique way of storytelling. He takes the sting out of plotting or outlining for all writers. He even drills down to the structure of scenes. He goes from big picture down to nitty gritty to get your story on the screen, big or small.

Get Your Story Straight by Diane Drake
Diane is a favorite of PSA and has been out to talk to our writers about story structure and storytelling. She tackles the process from the very start by asking the question “Why Write?” And takes it all the way to FADE OUT. Her second half of her book discusses the business of showbiz and on being a content creator. Her breakdown on story structure is refreshing as it appeals to both plotters and pants-ers. Everyone gets a piece of the cake in her book.

It doesn’t matter where you are at in your process on your current project or if you are going back to completed scripts, or starting from scratch on a new script. Each of these books are designed to help the writer throughout the process. Each of these books have guided me through a rewrite while inspiring me to start on a new idea or solve a writing problem that has popped up.

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