NonFiction ~~- The 10 Commandments Of ScreenWriting

Always Be In 1 Of The 36 Dramatic Situations

Communication 9315 Characters =~9.3Min. Reading Time
The "36 dramatic situation" list (originally codified by dramaturge Georges Polti) is a complete, exhaustive periodic table of dramatic elements.
No story element should merely be "setup", or "cool", or "picturesque."
You should be able to succinctly describe any plot thread you write with one or more of the following situations, all of which are inherently dramatically interesting:

#SituationActorsPlotExample
1Supplication
  • a Persecutor
  • a Suppliant
  • a Power in Authority, whose decision is doubtful.

The Persecutor accuses the Suppliant of wrongdoing, and the Power makes a judgment against the Suppliant.To Kill a Mockingbird, Paul, Stephen

2Deliverance
  • an Unfortunate
  • a Threatener
  • a Rescuer
The Unfortunate has caused a conflict, and the Threatener is to carry out justice, but the Rescuer saves the Unfortunate.10 Commandments, Schindler's List

3Crime pursued by vengeance
  • a Criminal
  • an Avenger
The Criminal commits a crime that will not see justice, so the Avenger seeks justice by punishing the Criminal.Les Miserables.

4Vengeance taken for kin upon kin
  • a Guilty Kinsman
  • an Avenging Kinsman
  • remembrance of the Victim, a relative of both
Two entities, the Guilty and the Avenging Kinsman, are put into conflict over wrongdoing to the Victim, who is allied to both.10 Commandments (Moses is related both to Pharaoh and to the Hebrews)

5Pursuit
  • Punishment
  • a Fugitive
The Fugitive flees Punishment for a misunderstood conflict.Moses, Les Miserables

6Disaster
  • a Vanquished Power
  • a Victorious Enemy or a Messenger
The Power falls from their place after being defeated by the Victorious Enemy or being informed of such a defeat by the Messenger.Cleopatra

7Falling prey to cruelty/misfortune
  • an Unfortunate
  • a Master or Misfortune
The Unfortunate suffers from Misfortune and/or at the hands of the Master.12 Years A Slave

8Revolt
  • a Tyrant
  • a Conspirator
The Tyrant, a cruel power, is plotted against by the Conspirator.Braveheart, Spartacus.

9Daring enterprise
  • a Bold Leader
  • an Object
  • an Adversary
The Bold Leader takes the Object from the Adversary by overpowering the Adversary.Ben Hur, Raiders of The Lost Ark

10Abduction
  • an Abductor
  • the Abducted
  • a Guardian
The Abductor takes the Abducted from the Guardian. (This is a variation on the macro-architecture I call "Mama, Baby, Tiger").Ransom.

11Enigma
  • a Problem
  • an Interrogator
  • a Seeker
The Interrogator poses a Problem to the Seeker and gives a Seeker better ability to reach the Seeker's goals.Matrix, Hobbit, Lord Of The Rings

12Obtaining
  • a Solicitor
  • an Adversary who is refusing or an Arbitrator
  • Opposing Parties
The Solicitor is at odds with the Adversary who refuses to give the Solicitor the Object in the possession of the Adversary, or an Arbitrator decides who gets the Object desired by Opposing Parties (the Solicitor and the Adversary).Erin Brokovich

13Enmity of kin
  • a Malevolent Kinsman
  • a Hated or a reciprocally-hating Kinsman
The Malevolent Kinsman and the Hated or a second Malevolent Kinsman conspire together.Romeo & Juliet, Jacob & Rebekkah vs. Esau, Jacob & Rachel vs. Laban, Laban & Leah vs. Jacob

14Rivalry of kin
  • the Preferred Kinsman
  • the Rejected Kinsman
  • the Object of Rivalry
The Object of Rivalry chooses the Preferred Kinsman over the Rejected Kinsman.Cinderella, Jacob & Rachel vs. Leah

15Murderous Adultery
  • two Adulterers
  • a Betrayed Spouse
Two Adulterers conspire to kill the Betrayed Spouse.Double Indemnity

16Madness
  • a Madman
  • a Victim
The Madman goes insane and wrongs the Victim.Silence Of The Lambs, Psycho, Sunset Boulevard, MacBeth

17Fatal imprudence
  • the Imprudent
  • a Victim or an Object Lost
The Imprudent, by neglect or ignorance, loses the Object Lost or wrongs the Victim.Indecent Proposal

18Involuntary crimes of love
  • a Lover
  • a Beloved
  • a Revealer
The Revealer betrays the trust of either the Lover or the Beloved.Judas Iscariot?

19Slaying of kin unrecognized
  • the Slayer
  • an Unrecognized Victim
The Slayer kills the Unrecognized Victim.Oedipus Rex, Sweeney Todd

20Self-sacrifice for an ideal
  • a Hero
  • an Ideal
  • a Creditor or a Person/Thing sacrificed
The Hero sacrifices the Person or Thing for their Ideal, which is then taken by the Creditor.Ghandi, King Of Kings

21Self-sacrifice for kin
  • a Hero
  • a Kinsman
  • a Creditor or a Person/Thing sacrificed
The Hero sacrifices a Person or Thing for their Kinsman, which is then taken by the Creditor.Casablanca

22All sacrificed for Passion
  • a Lover
  • an Object of fatal Passion
  • the Person/Thing sacrificed
A Lover sacrifices a Person or Thing for the Object of their Passion, which is then lost forever.Titanic (Rose gives up her life of riches for Jack, who dies)

23Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
  • a Hero
  • a Beloved Victim
  • the Necessity for the Sacrifice
The Hero wrongs the Beloved Victim because of the Necessity for their Sacrifice.Sophie's Choice

24Rivalry of superior vs. inferior
  • a Superior Rival
  • an Inferior Rival
  • the Object of Rivalry
A Superior Rival bests an Inferior Rival and wins the Object of Rivalry.Princess Bride

25Adultery
  • two Adulterers
  • a Deceived Spouse
Two Adulterers conspire against the Deceived Spouse.David & Bathsheba

26Crimes of love
  • a Lover
  • the Beloved
A Lover and the Beloved enter a conflict.Bonnie & Clyde

27Discovery of the dishonour of a loved one
  • a Discoverer
  • the Guilty One
The Discoverer discovers the wrongdoing committed by the Guilty One.Chinatown

28Obstacles to love
  • two Lovers
  • an Obstacle
Two Lovers face an Obstacle together.Shakespeare In Love, Jerry Maguire, Ice Castles, The Bodyguard

29An enemy loved
  • a Lover
  • the Beloved Enemy
  • the Hater
The allied Lover and Hater have diametrically opposed attitudes towards the Beloved Enemy.Fiddler On The Roof, Sound of Music

30Ambition
  • an Ambitious Person
  • a Thing Coveted
  • an Adversary
The Ambitious Person seeks the Thing Coveted and is opposed by the Adversary.Raiders Of The Lost Ark

31Conflict with a god
  • a Mortal
  • an Immortal
The Mortal and the Immortal enter a conflict.Nebuchadnezzar

32Mistaken jealousy
  • a Jealous One
  • an Object of whose Possession He is Jealous
  • a Supposed Accomplice
  • a Cause or an Author of the Mistake
The Jealous One falls victim to the Cause or the Author of the Mistake and becomes jealous of the Object and becomes conflicted with the Supposed Accomplice.Something About Mary

33Erroneous judgement
  • a Mistaken One
  • a Victim of the Mistake
  • a Cause or Author of the Mistake
  • the Guilty One
The Mistaken One falls victim to the Cause or the Author of the Mistake and passes judgment against the Victim of the Mistake when it should be passed against the Guilty One instead.Shawshank Redemption, Joseph

34Remorse
  • a Culprit
  • a Victim or the Sin
  • an Interrogator
The Culprit wrongs the Victim or commits the Sin, and is at odds with the Interrogator who seeks to understand the situation.Amadeus

35Recovery of a lost one
  • a Seeker
  • the One Found
The Seeker finds the One Found.Lion King, Ransom

36Loss of loved ones
  • a Kinsman Slain
  • a Kinsman Spectator
  • an Executioner
The killing of the Kinsman Slain by the Executioner is witnessed by the Kinsman Spectator.Life Of Pi


If your communication piece (chapter, song, poem, advertisement, film scene, game, concert, speech, etc.) does not contain one of the 36 dramatic situations, it will be boring to most audiences, no matter how well you execute it.
If your piece uses one of the 36 dramatic situations, it will have some level of interest, no matter how poor the execution.