An excerpt from my new book “Screenwriting for Profit” releasing later this year.
The Syd Field Paradigm
In his book Screenplay the Foundations of Screenwriting, first published in 1979, Syd Field introduced his Paradigm, and over-laid it onto the classic three act structure. He articulated the notion of plot points, which he defined as “any incident, episode, or event, that hooks into the action and spins it around in another direction” and he noticed that these plot points occurred in roughly the same place in many classic as well as contemporary films that were successful. He stated that “the plot point is a function of the main character” and “the purpose of the plot point is to move the story forward, toward the resolution”, and that “it amps up the action and underscores the arc of the character”.
Field posed that the first plot point should occur at the end of act one and, in my words, is an unexpected dramatic event that has a profound effect on the main character and spins the action in a different direction. He placed the second plot point at the end of the second act, which is a powerful turnaround, setback or reversal of fortune that propels the main character and the action towards the confrontation and resolution. He also cited what I call the second act doldrums, and to counteract the picture bogging down in a tediously long 120 page format, and a second act that was twice as long as acts one and two, he inserted the concept of a mid-point into the middle of the second act. The mid-point is a critical scene in the middle of the second act, where a revelation or turn of events can send the main character and or the story into a change of direction.
By the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, I had written several scripts and many stories for screenplays which I had pitched and not sold. I was instinctively implementing the three act structure with what we called at the time, twists at the end of the first and second acts. Around this time, a friend of mine and went to a weekend seminar with Syd Field, at which I also bought his book. I learned about his concept of plot points, which I called twists, and also his concept of a mid-point event which I began to incorporate into the structural foundation of my scripts.
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