all about screenwriting - el Screenwriter

home | structure | screenplays | links


Basic Screenplay Structure

QUESTIONS to ask yourself

This page will be dedicated to the standard three-act structure of a screenplay. It'll cover everything from Plot Points, Character Development, Subplots, Conflict etc etc etc...

All information on this page is for educational purposes only.


Here is a basic list of how your script should be formatted.

  • Typeface Always use Courier 12-point font!
  • Margins Because of the 3-hole punched paper, the Left margin should be 1.5 inches and the Right is .5 inches.
    Top and Bottom should be 1 inch each.
    Dialogue -2.5 inches from the left- will be about 3 to 3.5 inches wide and shouldn't extend more than 6 inches from the left.
    Character's Name at 3.7 inches and above the dialogue.
  • Page Numbers should be located in the upper right hand corner and then double space and continue writing.
  • First Page A screenplay begins with FADE IN:
  • Last Page At the end of your script you should type The End and center it, or double space, to the far right of the page, and type FADE OUT.

return to top

Plot Points

This is the basic outline of the average movie made today. Give or take a few minutes.


  • Between pages 1-5: The HOOK, something that grabs our attention and pulls us in.
  • Page 10: At this point in your script you should have the "MINI CRISIS". The "MINI CRISIS" should lead us into...
  • Page 17: ...The DILEMMA. Creation of the team and what the movie is about.
  • Page 30: The REACTION to the dilemma or situation.
  • Page 45: First "REVERSAL" of the 17 minute point. This point furthers the characters and pushes them deeper into the situation or the dilemma.
  • Page 60: The "TENT POLE" of the movie. Where the passive characters become active or vice versa.
  • Page 75: Second "REVERSAL" to the 17 minute point. To reaffirm what the story is about.
  • Page 90: The LOW POINT of action. The place from which our main character has to rise up from.

    return to top


    Here is a list of requirements for a cinematic character.

    Return to top


    1. Who is your story about?
    2. What kind of trouble is that person in?
    3. What does your character want and what will your character do to get it?
    4. What is your character most afraid of (his/her ghost)?

    1. GENRE Does your script fulfill the expectations of its particular genre?
    2. CHARACTERS Are your characters memorable? Are they larger than life?
    3. STRUCTURE Does it create suspense? What's the big question the audience will be wondering about throughout the movie?
    4. THEME What is your movie really about?
    5. RESOLUTION Is the Movie satisfying to the very last scene?
    6. MOMENTS Are there at least four or five memorable moments? Think of this as a "Trailer Moment".
    7. STORY It is the point when your Character is forced to solve his/her inner conflict in order to solve the outer conflict.
    8. FRESH Is your script fresh? A new perspective on the human condition.
      They must reflect the conflicts of the main Characters.

    Return to top

    Script Checklist

    • Opening hook
    • Primary conflict up front
    • Set the Genre and Tone
    • Post a general question
    • Introduce the protagonist in a unique way
    • Why does the story start today
    • ANTAGONIST: Who? Why? What?
    • What power does the antagonist hold over the hero?
    • 10 minute point
    • Event and declaration
    • 17 minute point
    • Reaction/30 minute point
    • Main goal or plan
    • What's at stake?
    • How is the hero trapped?
    • Time Lock
    • Are there teams? Hero's and Antagonist's
    • Mid Point
    • How does hero seize control of destiny?
    • How does the hero voice this new awareness and need
    • An Action that conveys the seizing of control
    • How does the hero face the antagonist on their own turf
    • How are the stakes raised raised for the 2nd half of the movie
    • What Unforeseen Obstacle is now in the way
    • When does the hero realize his/her worst fear
    • Tighten the screws
    • Epiphany; it should put your hero at a crossroads
    • Creates a New Goal
    • Climax
    • What truth emerges?
    • What does the Entire Screenplay stand for?
    • What do you want the audience to come away with?
    • What's it about - In One Word
    • Is the structure complex enough to sustain the movie?
    return to top