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[ Good stories come from real-life experiences ]
  1. Story Type
  2. Hollywood Formula
  3. Satisfaction Guide
  4. Evaluation Form
  5. It Had to Happen


The Basic Stuff

All screenplays fall into three broad categories: Tragedies, Tragic Comedies or Comedies. Since much literature is available about these dramatic designations, one tends to have a tough time finding actual working definitions. So, for our purposes I have summarized them as follows:

Tragedy: When unfortunate events happen to the main character and these events are caused by things the main character does.

Tragic Comedy: When unfortunate events happen to the main character and these are caused by characters or environments around the main character. These events are not caused by something the main character does.

Comedy: When unfortunate events happen to a character but they cause him or her no emotional or physical pain. These events can be caused by the main character, the environment or others around this main character.

These categories are not to be confused with story genres such as Western, War, Thriller, Mystery, Science Fiction and the like. In screen writing, genres are descriptions of a particular form or content in a script. They are not descriptions of how the main character acts in an environment.

If your script is a Tragedy, have your main character react like she's in a tragedy. Do not have her react in the way defined as Comedy or Tragic Comedy. If you begin writing your story as a Tragic Comedy, stay away from elements that would classify the character's actions as the definitions of Comedy or Tragedy. If you begin your screenplay as a Comedy, make certain that your main character reacts in the way defined as Comedy.

Many new screenwriters mix these dramatic designations. They may start and end the screenplay as a Tragic Comedy but in between mix elements that fall under the definition of Comedy. This practice causes the story to be dysfunctional and at worse promotes confusion among the audience. Stay away from this.

If you follow this screen convention you will be on a positive road. If you break this convention, you may be disappointed later on. Start doing things right from the beginning. Keep your story type true to the end.

Why Unfortunate Events?

One way to know a character is by how he or she decides things. His or her form of thinking is easily demonstrated when conflicts need to be resolved. By choosing solutions a character demonstrates his or her way of thinking. The three dramatic designations include an unfortunate event since that is the moment where we most clearly observe how the main character acts in an environment.

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