As a writer in training, I’m always looking for ways to quickly analyze and consume movies. Movies don’t go as deep as novels but they provide a great compression of story structure in one sitting.

One useful exercise is giving each character on the screen a question that summarizes their goals for the story. Here’s Jurassic Park:

  • Dr. Grant: will he learn to like kids?
  • Ian Malcolm: can he convince the others this is dangerous?
  • Dennis Nedry: will he escape with the eggs? -John Hammond: will he successfully convince all and open the park?
  • Everyone: will they escape alive?

With these questions, we know exactly what to watch for in each scene. Okay, here’s a Nedry scene, what happens that moves that plot along? We can study each scene like this, tracking how each question goes from a thought or a question posed to a final answer. These questions break the complexity of the story down into something manageable. And in the end, we can come away with a bullet-pointed list of the plot beats. What better way to get a grasp on overarching story structure.