A Comparison of Scene Structures

In order to cement your trust in the importance of scene structure, let’s compare the Eight Craft scene structure with the five commandments of Robert McKee and Storygrid, and Dwight V. Swain’s scene/sequel approach.

An Eight Craft scene has nine elements:

  1. Scene orientation
  2. Stimulus and stakes
  3. POV character’s scene goal
  4. Adversity
  5. Progressive Involvement
  6. Stake flip (external turning point)
  7. Reflection (internal turning point)
  8. Climactic action
  9. Outcome

The reflection scene element has the following phases:

  1. The external stake flip causes an internal stake flip, for example, the POV character changes from confident to scared. 
  2. The POV character contemplates the nature of the stimulus
  3. The POV character comes up with a possible solution. If there are multiple solutions, the POV character faces a crisis.
  4. The POV character decides on a solution.

McKee and Storygrid suggest the following scene elements: 

  1. Inciting Incident (milestone)
  2. Progressive Complications (phase) 
  3. Turning Point (milestone)
  4. Crisis (milestone)
  5. Climax (milestone)
  6. Resolution (milestone)

For McKee, the (external) turning point is most crucial. A scene must turn or it isn’t a scene.  

Dwight V. Swain recommends writing scenes and sequels. Dwight scenes have the following elements:

  1. Goal
  2. Conflict
  3. Disaster

Dwight sequels have the following elements: 

  1. Reaction
  2. Dilemma
  3. Decision

The alternation scene/sequel produces a rhythm – the alternation of external and internal movements. Scenes advance action, sequels reveal character.

McKee’s and Storygrid’s scene elements are mostly external. Dwight Swain suggests showing external and internal movements, but misses out on stimulus and climax, the two most important external scene elements. 

Table

In the case of Storygrid and McKee, progressive complications culminate in the turning point. In the case of Eight Crafts, the stake flip and reflection are still part of the progressive involvement, which ends with the scene climax.

Note that progressive involvement recons both protagonistic and antagonistic stimuli.

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