https://youtu.be/HD5D1SsNiC0

Is your screenplay getting the reaction you want? My guess is, no. If it was, you’d already be a working writer. The reason that I most often see is that the writer does not understand story structure properly. Story structure is what allows the reader to go on a journey with a character. It’s what allows them to fall in love with a character so that they really go on a journey with them, because that’s what a story is. It’s a journey.

Now, let me give you an example from your real life that’ll help you understand this. Imagine you’ve been set up on a blind date. You’ve never met this person. You come to a restaurant. You sit down at a table. You’ve just met this person and they immediately start telling you their life story. You haven’t even opened the menu yet and they’re telling you their life story. And they’re saying, “Yeah, well, when I was a kid, I was abused for many years. That left many emotional scars on me. Eventually, I met somebody. I fell in love. Things were great. They were tragically killed in an accident. That sent me into a tailspin. I wound up using drugs to dull the pain. Then I wound up knocking over a couple of liquor stores to pay for my drug habit. I eventually got caught. They sent me to prison for three years. I got out and now I’m finally ready to find love again. And hopefully, I want to have kids in the next year and a half.” If someone told you this, you haven’t even opened up the menu yet and they’re telling you all this, what are you going to do? I would run for the door. Maybe you are more polite than I am. Maybe you’d stick around with a big smile on your face. “Oh, okay. That’s nice,” but you’ve completely checked out. You don’t want to spend any more time with this person than necessary. After this date, you’re done.

So, that’s what story structure is. Imagine if this person, instead of opening up the life story, imagine upon their first date, they talked just a little bit about their childhood, where they grew up, and maybe what they dreamed of becoming, but that’s about it. And you’re like, “Okay, I like this person.” You go out on a second date and you’re hitting it off even more, and maybe once in a while, something might strike your ear a little weird and be like, “Okay, that’s a little odd.” But, whatever, you let it go. You’re having fun with this person. And then slowly you fall in love, and then one evening, you’re talking about moving in together, and during a very intimate moment, this person confesses to you all their backstory. They start talking about, “Yeah, I was emotionally abused. I met this person. I fell in love and that person would die tragically. I went to prison.”

Imagine they tell you all this in this emotional moment, this intimate moment, what are you going to do now after you’ve been dating and falling in love? What are you going to do? You’re going to cut and run? No, at this point, you love the person. You’re already emotionally invested. You’re going to go on the journey. You’re going to help this person through their problem and you’re going to go together down this journey together. That’s what story structure is. I teach story structure in my course at michaejamin.com/course. If you’re interested in going deeper, because there’s more to it than that, obviously, but now you get the analogy, if you want to go on this journey with me, you go to michaeljamin.com/course. If you’re not ready, that’s fine. I still have plenty of other free content.

You can find more exclusive stuff on Instagram @MichaelJaminWriter. You can follow me there. I’m going to be announcing my podcast coming soon where we’re going to go in-depth further on these subjects. So just go ahead and follow me if you’re not ready to take the journey. But that’s what story structure is and that’s what most new writers have no understanding about.

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Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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