Updated: Jan 28, 2020
“If, in the first chapter, you say there is a gun hanging on the wall, you should make quite sure that it is going to be used further on in the story.” — Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright and short-story writer.
Reading screenplays to pick up techniques and writing devices, therefore skills translates to also understanding structure. What really works between plot and character driven screenplays? Campbell’s Hero’s Journey though by some opinions formulaic, serves the duality of character arcing or growth and plot driven story development. Michael Hauge explains the toning of hero or heroine’s inner and external journeys. https://youtu.be/KZfadIf5zpo
It is common to fit every story into Act Structures. That also creates a feasibility for character driven stories. Thus so, the transformation of the protagonist, during the journey. It could be huge or small, but must have credibility; possibly reveal that Hero’s Journey as a story development framework does not overlook character driven story development.
Character arcing or change proves itself in character driven storytelling or screenplay structures. However plot or character driven nuances also deploy Set-ups, Payoffs and Callbacks? The protagonist, hero or main character’s stressed, horrific, mental and physical torturing journey explores inner insecurity about fortitude with instinctive resourcefulness to escape conflicts and achieve goals. Therefore screenplay readers understand structural outlook and working parts, of each scene for its purpose.
Despite seeming uncertainty, which are eventually logically connected in plot, some contentedness prepares audience for satisfying end. The connection between what the audience learnt or took for granted is called the set-up, which makes story sense, if it is paired up with a payoff. This means setting-up is the ‘foreshadowing’ of a future event, confirmed in a pay-off.
Foreshadowing creates believability for any story. It uses early implication or introduction of extreme importance as plot unfolds. Otherwise Deus Ex Machina sets in; meaning God from the machine; an item, a person or anything not previously indicated. A second look at the story end should indicate the writer’s intrinsic confirmation of characters’ suitability to resolve inner and outer conflicts and audiences’ enjoyment of the conflicts’ resolution in Act 3.
Indeed set-ups, payoffs and even callbacks (flashbacks) provide fasteners that hold the plot together. Two or more elements in any story that add insight and meaning to two or more moments enrich audience satisfying viewing experience. The pairs Setup/Reveal, Plant/Reveal, Setup/Payoff explain foreshadowing for an advance hint of what a later story event. Therefore a call back to an earlier scene and recognition or linking of a later scene is a big reward. It avoids coincidence or randomness. Do not forget to set-up before paying-off.
Anton Chekov said…“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there.”
The following should set-up and payoff in the course of reading or writing screenplays: Visual clue lends a glimpse like that of a gun in a drawer, when your protagonist is looking for a pair of scissors. We know that gun will be used at some point. While an innocent verbal clue by someone stating he used to enjoy hunting, which would make sense, if he should use his marksmanship later. A musical or sound cue in a thriller could tip off an impending event. To not make it obvious, a red herring would foreshadow an immediate suspect to have used a gun seen in his drawer in a murder. This might keep the audience guessing and eventually feeling a sense of relieve, when the real culprit is finally caught. Beyond screenplays, see some more of foreshadowing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liZFfVDjwbI