Smarter Story Structure (online course)

Write Addictively Entertaining Stories—Faster

With my online course, Smarter Story Structure, you’ll learn practical tips for overcoming plot problems like these in your screenplay or novel:

  • the story starts too slowly (according to a Goodreads survey, 46.4% of readers abandon novels for this reason)
  • the story doesn’t get going until halfway through (this happened in almost a quarter of scripts read by a studio reader in a year)
  • the middle “runs out of gas” (even John Grisham admits this is a tricky issue)
  • the climax doesn’t deliver fireworks, merely sparklers
  • the story is the right length…but isn’t a good read (uh-oh)

Enroll today and learn how to use story structure to get on audiences’ good side. Click on the button below to learn more:

Script Structure: Lessons from Bridesmaids

The plot of Bridesmaids

This week’s set of Bridesmaid’s themed posts wouldn’t be complete without a list of its plot points. The structure of the Bridesmaids movie is pretty solid. Early drafts of the Bridesmaids script, however, read like a series of comedy sketches strung together.

Makes sense since one of its writers, Kristen Wiig, was a Saturday Night Live regular, while its other writer, Annie Mumulo, has a background in improv and is a member of the comedy troupe, The Groundlings. Basically, these two girls know how to write funny scenes, but organizing them…not so much.

Enter Judd Apatow, writer, director, and producer extraordinaire. He basically whipped the structure of Bridesmaids into shape. The result is a laugh-out-loud movie with a structure worth studying. Even if you think that the comic set pieces in Bridesmaids are too gross to be funny, you should still study its plot points. If you do, you should be able to develop your understanding of:

  • structuring a “love triangle” subplot
  • plotting without sacrificing character
  • the all is lost moment, one of the 8 essential plot points
  • pacing, specifically balancing comedy set pieces with slower, more emotion-based scenes

So let’s get on with it, shall we?

Plot Points from Bridesmaids

  1. We see the exterior of a seriously awesome house; it belongs to Ted who’s not a seriously awesome lover. After getting the grand brush-off, Annie leaves Ted’s house, launching her walk of shame by crawling over his security gate as his maid enters the complex.
  2. Annie and her best friend, Lillian, freeload off of an instructor’s outdoor fitness class.
  3. At breakfast, they continue to talk about men: Annie’s poor choice in them and Lillian’s current woes with her boyfriend. It’s clear they have a longstanding and deep friendship.
  4. Annie and Lillian walk past CakeBaby, Annie’s failed bakery business.
  5. Annie arrives at her new place of employment, a jewelry store, where she drives away the customers. Her boss berates Annie’s dismal sales and criticizes her “love is eternal” face.
  6. Annie arrives home, greeted by her insane roommate and her roommate’s anal-retentive brother.
  7. Annie visits Lillian. Surprise! Lillian’s engaged. She wants Annie to be her Maid of Honor.
  8. Annie spends time with her mother, who declares that Annie has hit rock bottom.
  9. Annie attends Lillian’s engagement party at a fancy private club and meets the rest of the bridal party: Brynn, Becca, and Megan (the groom’s sister). Finally, she meets Helen, who is East Coast prep perfect.
  10. Helen toasts Lillian, claiming they are best friends. Feeling threatened, Annie tries to outdo Helen’s toast. They engage in an embarrassing–and hilarious–toast duel.
  11. Alone with Lillian, Annie criticizes Helen. Lillian asks Annie to give Helen a chance.
  12. On her way back home, Annie gets pulled over by a cop, Officer Rhodes, because she has a broken taillight. He was a fan of CakeBaby…so he doesn’t give her a ticket.
  13. At home, Annie makes a beautiful cupcake. She’s an artist with icing.
  14. Annie and Helen play tennis together at Helen’s club. It gets violent.
  15. Annie insists that her roommates pay two thirds of the rent instead of making her pay half.
  16. Annie takes the bridal party to an authentic Brazilian restaurant in a sketchy neighborhood. They discuss possibilities for the bridal shower. Annie suggests a Parisian theme because Lillian’s always wanted to go there, but Helen says they need more ideas on the table.
  17. After their meal, Helen wrangles them an appointment at an exclusive bridal gown store. In the middle of the fancy shop, all the girls, save Helen, show signs of food poisoning. It’s a gross, but funny, set piece. Annie tries to convince Helen that she’s not sick, she’s just hungry.
  18. Annie returns to Ted’s seriously awesome home. She asks him to be her guest at the wedding; he declines…and kicks her out.
  19. Annie runs into Officer Rhodes at a convenience store. He encourages her to start her own baking business again.
  20. They bond even more when Officer Rhodes teaches Annie how to use his radar gun.
  21. Annie emails the bridal party about hosting the bachelorette party at a lake house. But the girls all have been co-opted by Helen and it’s been decided: they’re going to Vegas.
  22. On the flight to Nevada, everyone’s in first class, except for Annie, who tries to hustle her way into the luxurious cabin. Annie’s afraid of flying, so Helen gives her Scotch and some pills to calm Annie’s nerves. Megan harasses an Air Marshal. When the drugs kick in, Annie really loses it. Mayhem ensues. Annie’s arrested.
  23. Thanks to Annie’s in-flight entertainment, the girls are not allowed to continue their flight to Vegas. They have to take the bus back to Chicago. Lillian tells Annie that she thinks Helen should take over the bridal shower responsibilities–over everything–from here on out.
  24. Annie seeks out Officer Rhodes. They hang out. Annie spends the night at his place.
  25. In the morning, he brings her ingredients so they can bake something together. Uncomfortable with a genuine relationship, Annie says it was all a mistake and runs out.
  26. She calls Lillian to talk about her night with the Officer, but she only gets Lillian’s voicemail.
  27. Annie receives a way over-the-top, Parisian-themed invitation to Lillian’s bridal shower from Helen, who stole Annie’s Paris idea.
  28. Annie gets into a word war with a rich tween, takes it too far, and is fired.
  29. Officer Rhodes tells Annie he won’t be bothering her again.
  30. Annie’s roommates kick her out.
  31. Annie moves in with her mom. Now, she’s hit rock bottom.
  32. Annie drives to the bridal shower hosted at Helen’s house. Even Helen’s driveway is luxe. The party is an amazing replica of the sights and sounds of Paris. Annie and Lillian chat, but it’s awkward, not like their conversation at the café in the beginning of the movie.
  33. Lillian opens Annie’s gift–treats from all of Lillian’s favorite places. Lillian loves it. But then she gets Helen’s gift–two tickets to Paris. One for Lillian, one for Helen.
  34. Annie loses it. After wreaking havoc, Annie storms out of the bridal shower. The rift between Annie and Lillian is complete.
  35. Annie’s car breaks down. Officer Rhodes arrives on the scene. They fight. He tells her that everything is not Helen’s fault. All this would’ve been prevented if Annie had fixed her broken taillights.
  36. Ted pulls over to pick Annie up, but he’s no knight in shining armor. Finally fed up with his obnoxiousness, Annie chooses to walk home rather than spend another second with him.
  37. Megan pays Annie a visit, and encourages (rather browbeats) Annie into fighting back when life has knocked Annie down.
  38. Annie gets her taillights fixed. She bakes a carrot cake for Officer Rhodes and leaves it on his doorstep, but he doesn’t take it inside his house.
  39. Helen begs Annie for help–Lillian is missing and Helen doesn’t know where the bride could be.
  40. Annie seeks out Officer Rhodes. He ignores her. She violates every driving rule known to man. He only pays attention to her when she rear ends his cruiser.
  41. He traces Lillian’s cell phone–Lillian is at her own apartment. Annie apologizes for wasting his time.
  42. Annie and Lillian make up.
  43. Lillian gets married. The wedding is trademark Helen; Wilson Phillips does a number.
  44. Annie and Helen smooth things out.
  45. Officer Rhodes arrives to escort Annie home.

Typewriter (with modifications) by Xlibber

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