One of the best animated feature of the last few years is “Wreck-It Ralph.” By studying this screenplay after watching the movie, you can better see how the story works.
The most important part is the unity of the story. In the beginning, the hero (Wreck-It Ralph) is a bad guy who doesn’t like being a bad guy any more. He’s unhappy being treated poorly by the other characters in his video game. Then in the end, he’s still in the same situation being the bad guy, but now he’s content with his lot in life and knows that being a bad guy isn’t that bad when he knows he’s really a good guy at heart. So the beginning and the end perfectly mirror each other.
There’s also the false goal of the hero. In “Wreck-It Ralph,” the hero thinks winning a medal will bring him happiness. What he needs to realize (like most heroes) is that the physical goal is far less important than the emotional goal. In this case, the emotional goal is to learn that he’s not a bad guy after all and accept that in his own heart. Ralph goes through the typical hero’s journey that looks like this:
- Hero stuck in a dead end life and is unhappy
- Hero thinks pursuing a physical goal will make him happy (Symbol of Hope)
- In pursuit of this Symbol of Hope, the hero enters a new world where he meets secondary characters pursuing similar goals as his own
- The hero helps these secondary characters while pursuing his own goal
- Things fall apart as the hero finds himself isolated and alone
- The hero’s mentor inspires the hero to try one more time
- The hero accepts who he is and uses that knowledge as an advantage
- The villain’s plot is finally exposed and halted through the hero’s actions
- The hero’s actions helps the secondary characters achieve their goals too
- The hero may not achieve the physical goal, but does achieve the far more important emotional goal
- The hero’s life is now changed for the better
Look at any great movie and you can see this same hero’s journey structure. Look at how it works in “Star Wars”:
- Luke is stuck on a boring planet on his uncle’s boring farm when he longs for adventure
- Luke has to chase after R2D2 after R2D2 escapes
- Luke meets Obi-wan, Hans, and Princess Leia’s hologram who are all characters in search of their own goals
- Luke goes with Obi-wan and leaves his planet with Hans
- Luke gets stuck in a garbage dump on the Death Star
- Obi-wan’s disembodied voice urges Luke to run for safety on the Millennium Falcon to escape
- Luke decides to help the rebels while Hans decides not to
- We finally learn that Darth Vader has been trying to find and destroy the rebel base all this time
- By trying to destroy the Death Star, Luke has helped Hans change and be less selfish
- Luke does destroy the Death Star and save the rebellion
- Luke is a hero
To study the screenplay to “Wreck-It Ralph,” click here.
By watching good movies and studying their screenplay afterwards, you can better see the structure of a good story and how it was developed in the screenplay. The more you study good movies and their screenplays, the better you’ll get at writing your own screenplays. Just remember that the key isn’t worrying about screenplay formatting or using the latest, fanciest screenplay writing software. Instead, the key is having a solid story structure and then executing it correctly within the screenplay format.
So screenwriting consists of two main goals: First, come up with a great story. Second, make sure every scene in your screenplay grabs our attention, creates a problem, shows conflict, foreshadows the future, and leaves us with a cliffhanger to pull us into the next scene.
Great screenplays are a combination of great ideas and well-crafted structure.