The Difference Between Plot and Structure
By Jacob Krueger
The words plot and structure are often used interchangeably by writers and screenwriting teachers alike. But the truth is, there’s a profound difference between plot and structure, and confusing the two can be devastating for your writing.
No matter how brilliantly it may be executed, plot, on it’s own, is almost always boring. If you want to prove it to yourself, just go to imdb.com, read the synopsis of your favorite movie, and notice how incredibly boring it all sounds when boiled down to plot alone. It’s not the plot, but the structure, that makes these movies so compelling.
So what’s the difference between plot and structure? And how can you make your writing more compelling by shifting your focus from one to the other? Find out in this new video. Or read the transcription below.
It’s important to understand that events in themselves are not structural. The crap that happens to your characters is not structure. The events in themselves don’t matter. They are not exciting. The only thing that’s exciting is the choices the character makes in relation to those events.
One of my favorite recent fight sequences is from a really silly movie called The World’s End by Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright. It’s about a guy, and the only thing he wants to do is to have a drink at 10 bars with his old friends.
There’s a fabulous fight sequence, and the thing that makes it great that the only thing he’s trying to do during this crazy fight sequence is finish the pint.
And this whole fight sequences is going on, but the fight sequence is just the event that’s happening. Just the plot.
The choice he’s making is to keep trying to drink the beer, as opposed to actually engaging in the fight or trying to escape. Because the thing that he wants… the holdfast ego… the thing that he wants more than anything is this:
He started this 10 bar run with his friends, and he’s going to finish it if it costs him his life.
It’s not the event of the fight, who hit who, that makes the scene good. That’s kind of boring no matter how you write it. It’s the choice the character makes in relation to the event that makes it exciting. Because it’s those choices that allow us to change.
So if structure is built around change, it’s not the events that are our structure. It’s the choices we make in relation to those events.