LB’S NOTE: One of our fave TV writers-illustrators-screenwriters-vloggers, Stephanie Bourbon, demonstrates her amazing perspicacity by writing about a script co-written by Karen McCullah & Kirsten Smith.
I use the word “Perspicacity” without hesitation because way back in the early 1990s, Karen was one of my original TV & Screenwriting Workshop members when I conducted them at The College of Santa Fe. She had that very special something that inspired me to recommend her to my late friend, producer-director Paul Junger Witt, who hired her for her first professional TV writing gig in the mid-’90s.
OMG! I’m so old!
by Stephanie Bourbon
This week, I’m breaking down a popular romantic comedy from twenty years ago that nails it when it comes to story structure! LEGALLY BLONDE
How Legally Blonde Does it Perfectly!
When this film came out I lived with a roommate, whom I’m still friends with so I mean her no disrespect here but she was like, “ugh, so stupid, who would go see that?” and I replied, “I saw it and it’s really good” and then I explained why. She still wasn’t interested in it but that was part of her “I’m too cool to watch and like anything commercial” vibe but she did listen.
It’s not just that I liked, well LOVED, Legally Blonde, it’s that they got it right from the opening act to the end, it’s spot on and why I am using it today to show you how to create the perfect story structure–if you are writing romantic comedies this is especially a great example but even if you aren’t, the principles work for you!
In romantic comedies, there are traditionally 7 story beats or arcs.
- Setup / promise of the story
- Inciting incident
- Turning point
- Midpoint / Raising the stakes
- Swivel: second turning point
- Dark moment / crisis
- Joyful defeat / resolution
Let’s go over Legally Blonde now.
I also want to note that one of the main reasons that Legally Blonde works is that in the very beginning the writers show us that Elle is actually smart. There is a scene at a snooty store in Beverly Hills where two sales ladies decide that Elle is a ditz with a credit card but she puts them in their place with her knowledge of design, the designer, the fabric, the tailoring, and they shut up.
That was brilliant and made the entire rest of the story believable. If they had kept her as some stupid blonde, her getting into Harvard never would have been believable.
Here are the seven beats in traditional romantic comedies!….