To teach yourself story structure, you start by making a list of 10 movies and books in the genre you’re writing in and/or that you feel are similar in structure to the story you want to write. From this list you are going to develop your own personalized story structure workbook.
So here are the movies on my action genre list, and my attempt at log lines for those:
These log lines are spoilers, so skip down past the list if you don’t want to see.
10. Double Jeopardy, 1999 – A woman is framed for murder and loses everything, including her son, but now that she’s out of prison, she can really kill her husband, without risk of further consequences.
9. Jaws, 1975 – When an insatiable great white shark terrorizes the townspeople of Amity Island, a police chief, a grizzled shark hunter and an oceanographer seek to destroy it.
8. X-Men, 2000 – The X-Men, a group of persecuted mutants, join Professor Xavier in a battle to save the very humanity that hates them from another violent faction of mutants.
7. Independence Day, 1996 – When aliens in enormous spacecraft suddenly arrive in Earth’s atmosphere and start blowing things up, it falls to a cocky pilot and a goofy scientist to save the planet from total destruction.
6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000 – A young woman in ancient China longs for an adventurous life rather than a dull arranged marriage– and she gets everything she wished for.
5. Casino Royale, 2006 – The classic and ruthless James Bond begins his career as 007 against a corrupt financier in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, and finds that more than money is at stake.
4. The Mummy, 1999 – A less-than-mild-mannered librarian ends up on an adventure with a handsome gunslinger and her ever-scheming brother to find an ancient book– but that’s not all they find.
3. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, 2005 – Hiding their occupations has never been a hardship for either of two married guns for hire… until they discover that their next assignment involves them targeting each other.
2. The Mask of Zorro, 1998 – After twenty years in jail, the former Zorro chooses a successor and trains him to fight the man who stole his independence, his ideals, and his daughter.
And my #1 action movie (no surprise here)…
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981 – When Dr. Indiana Jones– the tweed-suited professor who just happens to be a celebrated archaeologist– is hired by the government to locate the legendary Ark of the Covenant, he finds himself up against the entire Nazi regime.
How about your favorites? Which action movies did I leave off my list in a heinous disregard for excellent film-making?