Whether you are analyzing a movie or a screenplay, breaking it down to the granular level of its scenes can reveal much about its story structure… and make you a better screenwriter.

Screenwriter Paul Schrader’s scene-by-scene breakdown of ‘Raging Bull’

There are multiple layers to any story. The more you dig, the deeper your understanding. Moreover, there is a special kind of learning you can experience only by cracking open a story and exploring its many moving parts, a knowledge that settles into your gut where you start to develop an innate sense of what works and what doesn’t. …

Is there some sort of key to finding a balance in a script?

I was talking with a writer the other day — fairly new to screenwriting — concerned they may be writing too much dialogue and not enough scene description. It’s a good concern to have because movies are primarily a visual medium. That said…

There is no formula, no simple answer.

There are many variables:

  • Genre: A drama may tend to have more dialogue than an action or horror story.
  • Characters: Some characters rely more on dialogue to communicate than action and vice versa.
  • Placement: Act One may…

The 2003 movie Whale Rider is a wonderful story, aptly described in this IMDB plot summary:

A contemporary story of love, rejection and triumph as a young Maori girl fights to fulfill a destiny her grandfather refuses to recognize.

The girl in question is Paikea, performed magnificently by Keisha Castle-Hughes in a role for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award.

In this scene, many threads come together. Pai has invited her grandfather (another great performance by Rawiri Paratene) as her special guest to a school concert, her way of reaching out to him after he has…

Screenplay by Nora Ephron and David S. Ward and Jeff Arch, story by Jeff Arch

The movie version of the opening:

One interesting change from script to screen: Instead of cutting to Annie, the focus stays on Sam all the way through him declaring he needs a real change… a move to another city. That choice makes sense as it rounds out Sam’s introduction:

Beginning: His wife’s funeral
Middle: Coping with her death
Ending: Decision to move

You may download the screenplay here.


Page One is a daily Go Into The Story series featuring the…

“On Tuesday, May 23, 2000, at 4:27 p.m., I sat down to write LMS [Little Miss Sunshine]. I wrote twelve pages the first day, thirty-seven pages the second, and — pulling an all-nighter — fifty-four pages on the third day. I finished the first draft at 9:56 a.m. on Friday, May 26. Then I spent a year rewriting it.

On July 29, 2001 — a Sunday — I heard from Tom Strickler.

On December 21, 2001 — the Friday before the holidays — the script was purchased by producer Marc Turtletaub.

Principal photography began on June 6, 2005, and ended…

Swiss psychotherapist and founder of analytical psychology Carl Jung was born today in 1875. He died in 1961 at the age of 85.

Jung’s influence the field of psychology as well as culturally is profound. For example, the concepts of introvert and extravert derive from Jung. Collective unconscious. Also from Jung. The Myers-Brigg Type Indicator was developed from Jung’s theories. Synchronicity, archetype, shadow, and many more of Jung’s ideas have become part of our conceptual currency. Like this:

Screenwriters and filmmakers owe it to themselves to study Jung. Think you understand the Hero’s Journey? You’ve only scratched the surface…

As a screenwriter, it’s important to get in touch with your inner Conflict-O-Meter to ensure your scenes convey compelling drama.

Erik Killmonger versus T’Challa in ‘Black Panther’ (2018)

You can’t have drama without conflict. Advice uttered by hundreds, if not thousands of writing teachers throughout the entire history of human pedagogy. For whatever reason, people are entertained by characters engaged in hostile antics. Need proof? Look no further than “The Real Housewives of New Jersey / Dallas / Atlanta / Wherever.”

I remember a conversation I had with producer Larry Gordon (48 Hrs., Die Hard, K-9) in which he said if a writer is stuck trying to figure…

“You take the blue pill, the story ends… you take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland.”

One way to up your screenwriting chops is to study great scenes. Analyze their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today: The 1999 movie The Matrix, written by the Wachowski Brothers. IMDB plot summary:

A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality…

“I’ve tried to figure out what good writing is. I know it when I read it in other people’s work or my own. The closest I’ve come is that there’s a rhythm to the writing, in the sentence and the paragraph. When the rhythm’s off, it’s hard to read the thing. It’s a lot like music in that sense; there’s an internal rhythm that does the work of reading for you. It almost reads itself. That’s one of the things that’s hard to teach to people. If you don’t hear music, you’re never going to hear it. That internal rhythm in a sentence or a paragraph, that’s the DNA of writing. That’s what good writing is.”

— Sebastian Junger

Via AdviceToWriters

For 100s of On Writing posts, go here.

Written by M. Night Shyamalan

A trailer for the movie:

You may download the screenplay here.


Page One is a daily Go Into The Story series featuring the first page of notable movie scripts from the classic era to contemporary times. Comparing them is an excellent way to study a variety of writing styles and see how professional writers start a story.

For more Page One posts, go here.

You may follow the daily conversation on Twitter as I cross-post there: @GoIntoTheStory.

Scott Myers

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