Do Novels and Screenplays Have The Same Structure? by Jennifer Brody


Film Courage: Novel structure versus screenplay
structure? How are they different? How are they the same? Jennifer Brody: I think that there is a lot
of similarities between them. When I teach writing I tend to actually reference
screenplay structure. The difference would be that screenplays are
much more rigid in terms of the First Act which is usually the first 30 pages or so,
the Second Act, Midpoint and then how long a script can be. It is much more rigid in terms of the way
they’re structured. Where with the book you have more leeway. The word count can vary. The page count can vary. And then, exactly when you are hitting these
big moments can also vary. Novels can also get away with being more episodic. Which is to say one thing happens, one thing
happens, one thing happens, it’s not always building. Whereas in a film you can’t really do that. Or if you do, I think you are a lot of times
in trouble because it’s not really building into something that’s a climax. With most films you are looking at 90 minutes,
2 hours really at the most. I know some films go longer but usually it
doesn’t work out well. I think you just have a lot more leeway. But that said I really believe that books
benefit from having a lot of the same things in place. Instead of in the First act moment, I would
call it the Big Thing That Happens Right Away or the Inciting Incident of a book. That would really be the end of a first act
in a screenplay. We use a little bit of a different terminology
in terms of what I would call it. But like I said, I think with novels you can
be a little more flexible. I tend to think that having the same things,
climax, moral choice of the character, and then after the climax, resolution…I mean
those things are all the same for the most part. Stories are told a certain way for a reason.

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