Story Structure

It has been estimated that at least 50,000 scripts are written every year. Yet only a few hundred are bought and made. Why do so many Screenwriters fail? Clearly, there is a limit to how many scripts the business can support, but in the vast majority of cases, scripts do not sell because the Screenwriter has not written a good script. Most Screenwriters have had no training at all when they try to write a script that will sell. Great screenwriting is more difficult than brain surgery, yet most people think that they can write a great script because they watch a lot of movies or they did well in school.

The Screenwriters Federation of America will not attempt to teach you the art and craft of screenplay story structure on this section of our website. We will however guide you to the industry's most renowned story structure experts listed below. With well over one hundred books on the subject in the current marketplace, the three individuals below are by far the most sophisticated and insightful in our opinion. Their proven methodologies will indoctrinate you with the story structure skills necessary to write a great screenplay.

John Truby

Over the course of three decades, John Truby has taught more than 20,000 students the art and craft of screenwriting story structure. Providing the knowledge and expertise he has applied as a consultant on over 1,000 movie scripts, Truby offers an approach to storytelling that has earned acclaim for his instructional classes.

From the writers, directors and producers of Shrek to Sleepless in Seattle to Star Wars, Truby’s screenwriting classes have trained some of the top players in Hollywood today. Truby’s audio and video screenwriting courses will teach you hundreds of screenwriting techniques that will allow you to compete with the best.

Truby’s 14 hour “Great Screenwriting” audio classes and 8 hour video courses focus on the 22 building blocks of every script. These screenwriting tools will take you from beginning to end in the development process of your script idea.

In addition to screenwriting courses and software, Truby.com also offers workshops which include one-on-one interaction with a personal mentor. The Great Screenwriting workshop is 12 weeks long and contains all the information from the Truby live seminar. Writing exercises at the end of each lesson help you apply the course information to your story.

Robert McKee

Robert McKee's Story Structure is the world's ultimate story and screenwriting class because it effectively demonstrates the relationship between Story Design and Character. Using examples from over 100 films, Robert McKee demonstrates that structure and design are about form and principles, that structure is not plot, rigid rules, formulas or "Hollywood" movies.

Characters are what they do. Story events impact the characters, and the characters impact events. Actions and reactions create revelation and insight, opening the door to a meaningful emotional experience for the audience.

Story is what elevates a movie, transforming a good film into a great one. Movie-making is a collaborative endeavor requiring great skill and talent by the entire cast, crew, and creative team—but the screenwriter is the only original artist on a film. Everyone else: the actors, directors, cameramen, production designers, editors, special effects wizards, and so on—are interpretive artists trying to bring alive the story world, the events and the characters that the screenwriter has invented and created.

Robert McKee's Story Seminar is a comprehensive, superbly organized exploration of all elements, from the basics to advanced concepts. It is a practical course presenting new perspectives on the craft of storytelling, not just for the screenwriter, but for the novelist, playwright, journalist and non-fiction writers of all types.

Christopher Vogler

Christopher Vogler is a motion picture producer, a story consultant to major movie companies, and the author of "The Writer's Journey". From 1994 to '99 he was a development executive at Fox 2000 Pictures. Prior to that he was a staff story consultant for the Walt Disney Company where he advised on the hit animated features "Beauty and the Beast", "Aladdin", and "Hercules". He worked most deeply on the structure of "The Lion King", one of the most successful films in history. He continues to consult for major companies, including Warner Brothers Feature Animation and Walt Disney Imagineering.

Chris developed Campbell's concept of "The Hero's Journey" into a structure guide for writers. It began as a legendary seven-page memo that he wrote for his own amusement while working at Disney in the mid-1980s. It soon became required reading for young executives in Hollywood.

Chris is also known as a teacher and lecturer, beginning with the UCLA Extension Writers Program and then developing workshops that he has presented all over the U.S. and around the world. He is now a member of the faculty at the USC Animation Department in the School of Cinema & Television.