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Down to the studs

I once got to work on a charity building project where we took the man's house down to the studs and built it back up again. (Ha! I know which kind of studs you were thinking of!) Well, today I did that with a movie, but without the build up, or the drywall dust.

See, last week I promised that I'd try a movie analysis à la Larry Brooks' post on The idea is to boil each scene down to its generic mission. Then you should end up with a story structure that could apply to any movie/book in the genre.

The whole concept is foreign to me, and I must say that it was harder than it sounded.

With the movie I picked–a romantic suspense that was available for instant viewing on Netflix–I had difficulty picking out the Midpoint shift and Pinch Point 2. Maybe the timing was off, or I'm just not as good at this as I'd like to think. Either way, below is my attempt at creating a generic romantic suspense template based on the movie I watched. I'll provide the title at the bottom. If I've done my job correctly, you won't have a clue.

Scene. Mission (Movie length: 105 minutes)

  1. Establish heroine's occupation and ordinary world
  2. Reveal heroine's loneliness and her dreams
  3. Foreshadow villain (1), introduce backstory
  4. Introduce villain (2) and heroine's stakes
  5. Establish heroine's new goal and motivation
  6. Fish out of water scenes and introduce conflict through villains (1,2)
  7. Heroine creates her own obstacles through naïveté
  8. Introduction of hero, he saves her life
  9. Reveal full identity of villain (1)
  10. Introduce hero's goal
  11. Plot Point 1: Heroine makes deal with hero that forces them to go forward together (~ 30 minutes)
  12. Show hero's disdain for heroine's lack of preparedness for what they face, reinforce fish out of water
  13. Villains are back
  14. Hero saves heroine again, running, obstacles, escape, find safe shelter
  15. Establish initial attraction between H/H, heroine reveals her goal and hero explains villains' ultimate goal, foreshadow possible betrayal by hero
  16. Hero saves her again
  17. Pinch Point: Reminder that villains (1,2) are looking for them (~ 50 minutes)
  18. H/H bonding while safe, reveal hero's backstory, nature, and goal to heroine
  19. H/H leave shelter and make an ally
  20. Villain (1) finds H/H and ally helps them escape
  21. Reminder that villain (2) is still out there, and reveal that he's found them
  22. Midpoint Shift: Hero decides to betray heroine, she starts thinking about taking action to gain stronger position against villains (~ 70 minutes)
  23. Show increased attraction between H/H
  24. Sex, show hero's betrayal (unknown to heroine)
  25. Pinch Point: Villains are back (~ 75 minutes)
  26. Begin pursuit of additional goal (prize) to help gain power against villains, reveal that villain (2) is with them but they don't know it
  27. Show viewer that villain (1) is following
  28. Introduce obstacles in pursuit of prize
  29. Plot Point 2: Heroine reveals change in mindset/thinking (~ 80 minutes)
  30. H/H find the prize (false victory)
  31. Villain (2) takes the prize away, and reveals hero's plan to betray heroine
  32. H/H recapture prize and run from villains (1,2)
  33. H/H separated, and hero ends up with the prize, heroine believes he's betrayed her, but he promises to meet up with her
  34. Black Moment: Heroine arrives at meet point and hero doesn't show
  35. Show heroine's disappointment and vulnerability, but resolve to face villain (2) alone
  36. Original goal achieved, but villain (1) interrupts and demands prize, threatens heroine, holds hero captive
  37. Climax: Series of scenes with H/H in fight with villain (1), while villain (2) flees; hero must choose between heroine and his goal
  38. Hero chooses heroine, but takes too long to arrive
  39. Heroine finds strength to save herself
  40. H/H share personal moment, and hero leaves to pursue his goal
  41. Resolution: Show heroine back in her everyday world, but now different because of experience
  42. Hero comes back for her and implied HEA ensues

I hope I've done the movie justice. I think Plot Points 1 & 2 were in the right place, but the middle of the story is a bit out of whack. Either that or I misinterpreted it horribly. Feel free to let me know if you agree. The movie was–drumroll, please–Romancing the Stone.

It was worse than I remembered, but very much in the tradition of its era, and still entertaining. I wanted to review Mr. & Mrs. Smith, but I'll have to wait since it's not available for instant play, and I don't know if my husband wants to watch it again anytime soon.

So, what do you think? Was it generic enough? Would it be a helpful structure on which to hang your own story?

Tell your friends!


  1. Reply

    associated think you nailed it. ( Gotta keep the metaphor alive here.) I even knew when he said, ” I think I’ll throw another key on the fire.”

    If a person knows Larry’s story structure definition of ” pinch points” and their function I think a new story could be hung on your forty two points. Also, What I liked was seeing the major “boxes” of plot structure in this generic kind of context yet associated with a story/movie. It captures the internal nature of structure by showing rather telling i.e. explanation, definition, argument,persuasion that goes on in a typical text book style presentation.

    Thank you for your effort.

    • Reply

      Okay, I figured. 🙂 Glad you found it helpful. I’m going to play around with it, and maybe try with another movie.

      If nothing else, it’ll get me thinking more about what makes a well-structured story. Thanks!

  2. Reply

    Wow!!! That is SO in depth….and you know, when I saw the “Hero betrays Heroine” I had a funny feeling it was Romancing the Stone. LOL

    I find it fascinating that you could do this. I tend to make much broader strokes when I watch a movie or read a book. I recognize the set up, mid point, and black moment.

    I am impressed and a bit in awe! Thi s is fascinating.

  3. Reply

    Thanks, Mary. I normally just look for the major parts too, but I was trying to follow Larry Brooks’ suggestion. I couldn’t do this for every movie I watch, but it was interesting, and I’d like to try a few more.

    Heck, I may even attack a book again. Maybe.

  4. Reply

    Hmm…you are inspiring me. You make reading some of the craft books interesting….by posting some of these types of assignments.

    I’d love to see how you do a book.

    • Reply

      If you’re inspired I’ve done my (self-appointed) job. 😉 Glad you’re enjoying the site because I love having you hang out with me. Good luck with #13!

  5. Reply

    That looks excellent, Gwen. I’m curious, now that you’ve had time to look at the Larry Brooks stuff, would you recommend purchasing it?

    • Reply

      Mary, Story Structure Demystified was great for me. Brooks presents it in an easy-to-digest, conversational way, and doesn’t feel like he has to muddy up the message just to fill pages.

      Now, if you have a strong grasp of structure you probably don’t need it, but I was really struggling. And now that I’ve got a better handle on it, so many other craft books are making more sense to me than they did before.

      It’s the very fundamentals, something I was lacking. And, if you read the storyfix blog, his posts will make a lot more sense after you read the book. 🙂

      I hope that helps!

      • Reply

        Thanks, Gwen. I start Spring Break next week so I’ll have more time to look into it all then. Structure is something I struggle with also. I’ve always been an organic writer, going where the story flowed with no structure but what came naturally. I think it’s time I look at my writing from another perspective.

  6. Reply

    I knew I had read ” Plot/Structure” talk before. I finally remembered where. When, was when my main concern had more to do with Friday night football and Saturday night fever than it did with plot points.

    This whole conversation got started with Aristotle’s Theory of Tragedy in his “Poetics” written around 335 BCE.

    He basically broke Tragedy ( We would no call it Story) into six parts. Plot, Characters, Diction, Thought, Melody, Spectacle
    The most important being Plot.

    Aristotle. ” Plot is imitation of the action-for by plot I here mean the arrangement of the incidents.” And, later he says. “But most important of all is the structure of the incidents. For Tragedy ( Story) is an imitation, not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action, and its end is mode of action, not a quality.”

    I’m thinking now that every “structure” book we pick up will be a variation on Aristotles work. One more and I hush.

    I mention Spectacle for fun. Larry Brooks just did a piece on what he called
    ” Arena.” It is very closely associated with Aristotle’s spectacle and what A. considered the least important. Why? Because ” the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet.” ” Stage machinists” ? I bet he might rearrange priorities if he saw the box office numbers after the stage machinist aka special effects people came into their own.

    There truly is nothing new under the sun.

    • Reply

      Definitely, Curtis. I just find Larry Brooks’ presentation of structure a bit easier to read than Aristotle! 😉 Read today’s post for more on his series this week. Thanks for your thoughts.

  7. Reply

    LOL. Just a tad easier. I think the thing that I get a kick out of is that so much we read that proports to be grand breaking and breath taking is a re-packaging of what has gone before.

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