Screenwriting Meta View: Five Stages of Screenplay Structure

In writing a screenplay, we go into the story. That’s critical in order to connect with the characters and immerse ourselves in the story universe. But we also need to balance that by stepping outside the story universe and take a meta view of the narrative.

I like to do that by thinking of five ‘passages,’ broad movements in the Protagonist’s or key characters’ experience. Here are links to a series exploring these five stages.

Life before FADE IN

Separation

Initiation

Return

Life after FADE OUT

This is grounded in the work of Joseph Campbell:

“The standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation-initiation-return: which might be named the nuclear unit to the monomyth.”

As screenwriters, we need to delve into the backstory of key characters, most notably the Protagonist, before the story initiates at FADE IN.

Separation. Initiation. Return. Another way of thinking about Three-Act Structure.

Then we must consider how the Protagonist’s life after FADE OUT represents their transformation arc.

A meta view of screenplay structure and its five stages.

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