Write Effective Blog Posts Using Hollywood Screenwriting Principles

Three decades ago a Hollywood screenwriter named Syd Field published a book explaining his “paradigm”–a firm and effective classic three part story structure that riffs on the framework first formalized in Aristotle’s Poetics and forms the basis for virtually every modern movie from Silence Of The Lambs to Avatar.

The storytelling geometry of the Syd Field Paradigm not only applies to motion pictures, but also can form the basis for powerful and compelling blog posts that will captivate and motivate your readers.

Whatever the subject of your blog post, applying the Syd Field Paradigm means that your reader is taken on an alluring journey consisting of a crescendo of anticipation leading to a satisfying conclusion.

In this post, I explain how to create effective freelance blog posts using this principle.


Act I: The Inciting Incident

The Syd Field Paradigm not only breaks down storytelling to the conventional theatrical three-act format, but goes far beyond in describing the actual dynamics of portraying an effective story. Act I is the setup. It traditionally takes up the first quarter of the story where the inciting incident occurs.

In blogging, this is where you not only introduce your topic, but also focus on the incitement. Confronting your readers in order to incite them requires a controversial or unexpected turn right at the beginning, which establishes your blog as fresh and challenging.

Structuring an incitement in the setup section communicates to the reader that this is not going to be the standard dry blog post, but that you are presenting an unique take on the topic. You are posing a question that you will answer in the climax at the end of Act III.

Act II: Confrontation

Act II is rising action that takes up fully half of your entire word length. This is where you provide additional information to bolster your question and provide credibility. Be sure to do so in a fresh and edgy manner.

Syd Field calls this the confrontation. It is the section where the blogger confronts the issue while building an increasing sense of awareness in the readers as to how the topic impacts them.

Just like when the protagonist of a screenplay confronts his personal challenges in Act II (with the aid of mentors and co-protagonists), the Syd Field blogger brings in authoritative and referenced information to substantiate and confront your Act I question. The movie protagonist gains an increased sense of awareness of their identity and their previously unfathomable capabilities in Act II. The blog reader must be led to a similar epiphany. They must learn new aspects about the subject in a way that personally relates to their own lives, activities, and preferences.

Act III: Climax & Resolution

The climax is where the main question and all of the sub-questions that were raised in the first two acts are resolved in an intense and dramatic manner. An example of this is when the Jake Sully-led Na’vi turn the tide against the mighty military machines of the invaders from Earth in the movie Avatar. This is the time when your readers are literally at “the edge of their seats.” All the loose ends of your blog post are tied together here in a kinetic and spirited manner that leaves the reader with a renewed perspective on the topic and how it affects them.

Why Blog This Way?

By integrating a cinematic progression into your blog posts, your reader is taken on a journey of discovery in a manner specifically designed to appeal, enthrall and entertain. A Syd Field type blog post excels because of the following factors:

  • Dwell Time. When your reader is led through the progress of a story, they are less likely to click away halfway through.
  • Trajectory. You are able to guide the reader through facts and thus influence them in any direction you prefer.
  • Motivation. The story structure gets your reader involved and is thus more susceptible to your advocacy cause or call to action.
  • Reputation. When you write consistently in a structured matter, that fact alone differentiates you from your unstructured and less-skilled competitors.
  • Repeat Traffic. Your audience is left more fulfilled. You’ll see a greater percentage of return readers due to your style alone.

There are countless advantages to structuring your blog post along the guidelines set forth by the Syd Field Paradigm. A considerable percentage of online writing can be termed as blobs rather than blogs due to their lack of internal structure and sequence.

Formless writing may have become commonplace, but it is still disconcerting to the reader and conveys shallowness and lack of substance. Apply the Syd Field Paradigm concepts to your own writing and graduate to the upper echelons of blogdom!

Your Turn

Have you used this style, or a similar style, on your freelancing blog posts? Share the blogging style that you prefer and explain why you prefer it in the comments.

Image by Kathleen Cavalaro

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Comments

  1. says

    I’ve always known there were tons of hidden advantages to being a screenwriter! This is a prime example. Thanks for reminding us that–for writers in all genres–Story still reigns.

  2. says

    I have used this method before, as most drama or literature classes also emphasize a structured script, and it is quite effective for any genre of writing. I have found it to be more effective than Campbell’s Monomyth structure because of it’s versatility.

    And it goes without saying, that the more controversial the subject, the more interest and repeat traffic is generated to your blog. When it comes to writing, I think the key is consistency and originality with your content. Too many people stick to a “formula” and don’t think outside the box. They report the news, or give their editorial opinions in the same manner.

    Thinking outside the box is not an easy thing to do because I find myself in that trap many a time. However taking the time to write something – anything – and putting some soul into it can’t be stressed enough. It doesn’t have to be perfect to make a point. And like anything else, writing is a learning process.

  3. says

    Experimenting with your writing and taking examples of content from other genres is always a good exercise, and highly commendable! Just don’t do it to excess, lest you become just another blogger with cookie-cutter type mind-numbing content. As for me, a blogger-writer-artist, I reserve and enjoy the right to exercise my freedom of expression by taking full ‘poetic license’ with my work … in whatever form it takes. Self-censorship and self-repression is harmful to the writer’s soul.

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