ARTICLE CONTRIBUTED BY: ALEXANDER BLOOM www.scriptreaderpro.com The A-story can be considered the protagonist’s main goal in the screenplay — what they want. The B-story, the protagonist’s sub-goal — what they need. A protagonist will often start a movie thinking they just want to accomplish the A-story, but by the end they realize that accomplishing the B-story is far more important. For example, in Sideways, Miles’ A-story at the start of the movie is to just relax, play some golf and drink wine. He has no intention of getting together with Maya, despite being egged on by Jack. Miles’ B-story is his relationship with Maya. And by the end of the film he’s rejected the A-story in favor of her. The Intertwining Of A and B Stories The B-story is just as important as the A-story, and not to be skimmed over when it comes to plotting out and writing your script. And here’s why: Both stories have a three act structure and major sequence plot points falling within the same few pages. A really good way of mastering screenplay structure is to write step outlines of movies as you watch them. Simply sit down with your laptop and write what happens in each scene in a one sentence summary. We really recommend every screenwriter writes outlines like this as it helps you see how the A and B-stories work together throughout the plot. When mapping out your story, it is important to remember that both the A and B stories work in tandem with one another and impact on one another at these plot points. It’s this intertwining of A and B stories that gives the screenplay its substance, helps keep it from getting boring as we switch stories, and provides the means by which the protagonist learns that all important life lesson. How the B-story Complicates the A-story The main function of the B-story is to impact on the A-story and complicate the protagonist’s ability to succeed in the main plot. Let’s check out some examples: Collateral A-story: Cab driver, Max, has to escape from the clutches of hitman, Vincent B-story: Max meets Annie Complication: Near the end, Max is free to escape but doesn’t because Vincent has Annie Wedding Crashers A-story: Jeremy and John are partners in crime crashing weddings B-story: John falls for Clare at a wedding Complication: Jeremy and John fall out and stop crashing weddings together Raiders of the Lost Ark A-story: Indy has to stop the Nazis from getting their hands on the Ark B-story: Indy falls for Marion Complication: Marion gets captured by the Nazis and so Indy has to let them take the Ark How the B-story Provides the Solution to the A-story This complication caused by the B-story, however, is also the solution to the protagonist’s A-story dilemma. Again, let’s take a look at the same examples. Collateral Max is a loner who gets caught up in Vincent’s night of terror (A-story dilemma) but his rescuing of Annie (B-story solution) makes a man of him. Wedding Crashers John is almost as bad as Jeremy when it comes to crashing weddings (A-story dilemma) but meeting Clare (B-story solution) changes his outlook. Raiders of the Lost Ark Indy has to save the world from the Nazis (A-story dilemma) but when he gets tied to a post with Marion at the end, he has to stop being the hero and let nature take its course. The Ark then destroys the Nazis (B-story solution). Conclusion Many aspiring writers seem to get so wrapped up with the business of coming up with a compelling A-story they forget to write an equally compelling B-story. Don’t be one of them! Make sure you figure out what your B-story is before you even start writing. How does it represent what the protagonist’s needs rather than wants? And how does it impact on the A-Story and vice-versa? These are the kind of questions you need answers to before writing that first draft because you can’t have a great A-story without a great B-story underpinning it. ### Alex Bloom founded Script Reader Pro in 2010 with the aim of creating one of the few screenplay consultancies made up of working Hollywood screenwriters. If you're tired of receiving vague or misleading script coverage (“Just trust in your story”, “You need to raise the stakes more in Act 2” etc.) then Script Reader Pro may be the guys for you. They love helping screenwriters by simplifying theory, giving them actionable feedback and setting hands-on, practical exercises to improve their craft from the ground up. Learn more about their script coverage services and screenwriting course and follow them on Facebook and Twitter @ScriptReaderPro.

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