1. One hero on a single linear chronological journey towards redemption
Am I mad? How can I possibly say there are six main families of structures, with 18 different sub categories and hybrids forming all the time? People are sometimes skeptical about this, indeed sometimes get a bit cross about it. Personally I’d say that what is really odd is the idea there is only one type of storytelling structure in screenwriting. Why should screenwriting be the only form of human endeavor that can be done in only one rigid way (although actually it demonstrably isn’t)? Just as a bit of fun, let’s look at a few other art forms, other forms of creative structure. Here, off the top of my head and in absolutely no order at all, is my layperson’s examples of main categories in these spheres (not even counting sub categories and hybrids), about which I think a person in the relevant profession would need to possess some awareness. Read these and then consider whether suggesting that there is only one form of structure for telling a story seems likely or sensible. Would you go to a music school that forced you to write only jazz? Or an architecture school that insisted there was only one design for a domestic dwelling? In short, in screenwriting as in all spheres of human activity there is more than one way to skin a cat. My thanks to Wikipedia (which will give you many more than I have listed here) and best wishes for your next trivia night. Apologies to all cats for any offense caused. I agree that it is a barbaric expression. No animals were hurt during the creation of this post...
I often get letters from writers asking me for advice about getting into the film and TV industry, sometimes also asking about how to get agents. I can’t help you with agents, I’m afraid. Getting agents is very hard and agents are not usually interested until a writer has some kind of track record. On the bright side, as many writers will tell you, it often happens in the film and TV industry that the writer is first approached by a director or producer - and only then does the agent come in, to organise the actual deal. So don't feel that you must have an agent to succeed, or that breaking in depends on having an agent. Most writers get started without an agent. Really, the first thing for any writer to do is to make themselves and their work known to their local film, TV and theatre people. Become part of the industry so that people know you and realise that you're serious about wanting to become a writer. That way, if they're looking for a writer they'll remember you. Don’t wait for people to come to you, go out and find people. Try to create your own opportunities. Many countries have schemes to help new writers and filmmakers (this includes developing countries). Offer your services and work for free at first, if necessary, or, if there is money, for a share of the profits. Show yourself to be a person who's full of energy, helpful, a good team player and determined to carve out a career for themselves in the industry. Think of people like the filmmaker Mike Leigh - who started off by making his own films with amateurs and a non-existent budget. If you have written material, create your own website or Facebook page (for free online) so that you have an international identity. Even one page is fine. Provide a brief description of your scripts (just a couple of lines) and/or the kind of work you’re interested in doing. Next, go online and join The London Screenwriters’ Festival. It’s free, and you get free writers’ tips and videos of filmmakers talking about their work. I mention the LSF because I think the site and the festival is very good, but there are lots of sites that provide scriptwriting and other technical help online. I'd suggest making some short films (even using just your mobile phone and some friends as actors ) and put them on YouTube. Get a twitter account and tweet about your work. All of these things give people a chance to notice you hence create the possibility that someone will ask you to work for or with them, or be interested in your material. Oh yes. Don't forget to try writing for radio and theatre too. It's often a bit easier to break in there. Keep writing. I hope this is useful. Good luck.
Linda is a screenwriter, novelist and playwright. As well as teaching and mentoring writers around the world, she regularly consults on screenplays at the highest level in the US, UK and Australia.