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What Does Plotting Mean in Screenwriting?

You might recognize the plot as the underlying structure that makes up a story or film. But while story structure and plot are similar, they certainly are not the same. In order to understand how plot and story structure work in screenwriting it’s important first to address the common question, “What does plotting mean in screenwriting?”

Plotting your story and defining your screenplay structure are some of the most important steps to the configuration of your film. But what does plotting mean and what does your story structure have to do with it all?

Organizing Story Structure

The early structure of your screenplay begins with your story structure. This is your opportunity to organize the leading principles for your story and to create a foundational framework.

One that will make sense of your characters, the action and conflict of your story, the theme and your subtext as well as various other materials involved. The story structure will create the underlying context for the complex intertwining elements of your screenplay. 

Although the story structure must organize a lot of working elements and materials, it may not be as complex as it seems. Many filmmakers write gracefully simple story structures that manage to still organize the story’s structure into an amazing screenplay.

Plotting Scene by Scene Organization

On the other hand, plotting the organization of your scene by scene relationships represents an entirely different element of bringing the materials of your story together. So, what does plotting mean in screenwriting? Plotting represents the fine tuning of your story.

When you plot your story, you’re actually making unique considerations that have to do with:

  • The conflict of the story.
  • The meanings between various moments occurring in the story.
  • How moments work together to convey exposition.
  • The steps you’ll take to generate suspense.
  • How you will reveal your characters.
  • The steps you’ll take to expose emotions among your audience.

The Flow

In screenwriting, plotting represents steps to plan each scene, and the specific actions that are to take place in each scene in order to reveal character or otherwise to convey exposition.

As you’re plotting, your screenwriting will move from one action to the next, such that a logical chain or flow of events takes place to build your characters, generate suspense, and ultimately share your story.

So, what does plotting mean in screenwriting? It essentially means you are planning the unique nuts and bolts of your story, scene-by-scene.

Such that you have a logical and coherent flow of action that builds your characters, develops an emotional connection with your audience, and guides your story’s emotions, actions, and meaning.