Can someone tell me the difference between scene, plot, story, and structure ?


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Since you have edited your question, I will attempt an answer.

Can someone tell me the difference between scene, plot, story, and structure ?

They are synonyms...

These terms have overlapping definitions, especially in casual use. They are all used, interchangeably, to refer to sequential events within a narrative film. In real use, the specific meaning must come from the context of the sentence. Since you don't provide context, it may be that these words are often used as casual synonyms that is causing confusion.

They are subjective...

Even for writers, these words cover broad ideas that are somewhat loosely defined, and subjective. Every writer will have their own definition, and the attempt to put the differences into words goes back at least to Aristotle (I didn't find his definition useful as a modern writer).

I can give you my definitions in the context of tools used for writing. I can't guarantee they are universal – a casual websearch returned plenty of discussion, maybe more confusing than helpful.

Here's my 2¢


In film production, scenes are the fictional locations and time-of-day where action and character dialog take place. All screenplays are sectioned into scenes. Each scene is clearly labeled by their place and time in the narrative, so the individuals who work on the film can visualize their contribution and needs: set designers understand the environment, costumers understand what kind of clothing the characters should wear, etc. Scenes are narrowly-defined for productions because it's necessary to show up for work and be prepared.

In writing terms, a scene is the smallest unit of a screenplay that still tells a narrative. This is where the definition becomes subjective. A common 'rule' from professional screenwriters is that each scene contains a mini-conflict which arises and is resolved within the scene. A co-existing 'rule' is that each scene must progress the long narrative of the film (Robert McKee's essay 'Do your scenes turn?' attempts to go in depth). Scenes that do not meet this dual-criteria are considered unnecessary, even detrimental to the final film.


In practical terms, a film's story is equivalent to a summary.

Film and TV have a specific marketing tool "logline" which is a 1 or 2 sentence summary of the film that includes the main character(s), the premise, and an enticing description of the main conflict. The logline is a concise (commercialized) description of the film's 'story'.

In writing terms, story usually refers to purposeful narrative sub-text including character dynamics, conflict and resolution, themes and social implications that are conveyed to the audience indirectly. It is the purpose and tone, the (intentional) meaning the film leaves on the audience.

“Story is King” is a screenwriting motto, but without a good definition of 'story' it isn't very usable. It means to center the human-interest parts of the narrative: character-dynamics and conflict, over plot and spectacle.


I think by most definitions plot is the objective 'stuff that happens'. Plot is the account of characters going to locations, actions, and dialog that occurs on-screen, and the events that can be logically inferred which happen off-screen.

Plot is what is shown to the audience through the deliberate sequencing of scenes. It is not a chronology of in-world events, and not necessarily a 'truthful' depiction. Plot involves the deliberate withholding of (implied) events, the chronological re-ordering of scenes, misleading framing and POV, and the anticipation of events to create pace and focus, build sympathy and tension, unleash surprises and satisfying payoffs.


Structure is a general term for analyzing plot. A structure implies the deliberate sequencing of scenes so they resonate or 'hook' the audience.

  • In medias res is an action-oriented structure that begins without any build up or exposition.
  • Eliptical is a structure where the ending echoes the beginning, implying a continuing cycle.
  • Hero's Journey is a structure derived by generalizing certain mythologies.
  • 3-Act and Save the Cat are formulaic structures derived from generalizing the timing of conflict and character turns in popular media.

The structure of any specific film might involve more than the arrangement of the scenes in the screenplay. Genre expectations, plot twists, character motives, pacing, style, and other creative decisions can factor into the film's eventual structure.

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