Formulating the Concept of the Plot Genotype

  • Terence Patrick Murphy


Is it possible to reconcile the work of Syd Field with that of Vladimir Propp in order to create a better method of analyzing a typical Hollywood screenplay? It would appear so. According to Syd Field, the paradigm of the Hollywood screenplay consists of three Acts, with two plot points used to connect them. Within this structure, a plot point serves to unite Act I with Act II; a second plot point serves to unite Act II with Act III. As Field states:

Before you can begin writing your screenplay, you need to know four things: the opening, the plot point at the end of Act I, the plot point at the end of Act II, and the ending. When you know what you’re going to do in these specific areas, and you’ve done the necessary preparation on action and character, then you’re ready to begin writing. Not before.1

If we take a look at Propp’s work, it seems intuitively clear that the plot points correspond to the concepts of the Pivotal Eighth Function and the Pivotal Nineteenth Function. As Propp argues, the Pivotal Eighth Function is the function that truly serves to set the fairy tale in motion. It marks the difference between the Preparation and the Departure for the Test. Similarly, the Pivotal Nineteenth Function concludes the Struggle and prepares the way for the Return of the Hero to face a Difficult Task. At this level, the work of the two great theorists of the plot is compatible.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Claude Lévi-Strauss, “Structure and Form: Reflections on a Work by Vladimir Propp” Trans. M. Layton in Vladimir Propp, “Transformations of the Wondertale”, Theory and History of Folklore. Ed. Anatoly Liberman. Trans. A.Y. Martin and R.P. Martin, 1984, p. 170.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    John L. Fell, “Vladimir Propp in Hollywood”, Film Quarterly 30.3 (Spring, 1977), 20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    David Bordwell, “ApProppriations and ImPropprieties: Problems in the Morphology of Film” Cinema Journal 27.3 (Spring, 1988), 11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 7.
    Syd Field, The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver: How to Recognize, Identify, and Define Screenwriting Problems, 1998, p. 26.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, 1968, pp. 30–36.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Terence Murphy 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terence Patrick Murphy
    • 1
  1. 1.Yonsei UniversityKorea

Personalised recommendations