Study Guide #3
Screenplay: The Narrative Film
Prof. Deland Nuse
The vast majority of commercially produced films, both national and international, are
, films that tell a story. These films usually begin with a written
form of writing that has evolved into a highly standardized form, but first, let’s consider the
elements of narrative fiction that make up drama, literature and film.
What is a Story?
At the most simple level, a story only requires the narration of a series of
events or actions
their chronological order. As the author
once explained: If you were to write,
“The king died and then the queen died,”
you have the foundation for a story, but it is a
foundation without a meaningful ordering of the events. In fact, the sentence about the fate of
the King and Queen provides little more than simple reportage, not quite enough to truly engage
a reader. If, on the other hand, you were to write,
“The king died and then the queen died of
you have now provided an ordering of events that will stimulate a reader’s curiosity about
the who, why and how of the story. The purposeful organization of the actions and events of a
story is called a
, and keep in mind that a plot does not necessarily have to lay out the
actions of a story in chronological order. For example, in a mystery, critical information may be
withheld until very near the end of the narrative in order to keep the reader engaged and provide
a surprise ending. It should also be noted that the nature of action does not necessarily imply
activity. Conflict and change are actions that can take place without apparent activity but they
must still engage the viewer and move the narrative forward.
Elements of Narrative Fiction
Plot, character and theme are the fundamental elements which every film writer and/or director
has to confront and come to terms with. There is also a set of
also be addressed by the writer/director, and it is through these elements that
its uniqueness as an art form in profound ways.
Point of view