5 Types Of Plots To Jump Start Your Screenwriting


Plots are screenplay roadmaps for screenwriters. They depict the way a story is executed through a cause and effect series of events in your screenplay. They are the mechanics of your storyline; how the sequence of events are put together without the underlying emotional underpinnings.

This is where many script writers stumble during the screenwriting process. Plot must be linked to character growth, theme to ultimately resonate with film audiences.

Plot is linked to story  STRUCTURE, the most common being the Aristotelian three act structure.

They also refer to the main character’s arc by sequencing events in a way they move toward or away from their goals.

1) Linear Plot 

Is your plot linear, non-linear or a hybrid? Most films have a linear screenplay format. That is, the scenes are in chronological order.

2) Non-Linear Plot

Unconventional storytelling allows screenwriters to reorder time and tell a story through fractured, reversed, jumbled or otherwise rearranged time frame.

Classic examples of non-linear plotted films include “Memento”, “Reservoir Dogs” and “Run Lola Run”.

3) Main Plot

This is often referred to as the A story in screenwriting. It relates to the sequence of events as told from the protagonist’s point of view. It should occupy the most pages in your screenplay. It defines the main character’s goal, theme, obstacles and culminate to a satisfying conclusion in your story map.

4) Subplot

These are secondary storylines which explore a secondary character’s interaction with one of the main characters; hopefully the protagonist or antagonist. Love interests are very common subplots.

Script writers should ensure that a main character is included in the subplot, otherwise it risks becoming a separate story in its own right.

A subplot must strengthen the main plot. A simple test for screenwriters to use is ask whether the subplot adds dimension to the main character’s story arc. Is it an obstacle or a mentor character for example?

5) Parallel Plot

Parellel plots are generally found in ensemble films, where there are multiple protagonists. Each generally occupies a similar amount of space in a screenplay. Each character in a parallel plot line has their own arc. If one of these non-essential parallel plots is removed, the remaining plot lines still makes sense and nothing is detracted from the other characters.

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