Plot: Act 1

The events of your story.

It is through these events, that you will express all the ideas you’ve crafted in your other cubbies. These events serve as a kind of delivery system for the other cubbies. They give you an opportunity to express and dramatize everything else.

You’ve got 25 basic steps

All structured around the 4 acts.

  • Act 1 has five steps.
  • Act 2 has five steps.
  • Act 3 has five steps.
  • Act 4 has ten steps.

Act 1

The five steps are:

  • Set Up
  • Inciting Incident
  • Raise the Dramatic Question
  • Debate and Decision
  • Turning Point 1

Set Up:

This is the very beginning of your story.

All the information you need to tell your audience before the story gets going.

Introduce your characters, your world, your desire lines, as much information as you like.

Inciting Incident:

Something happens that really starts off the story.

Your main characters face a problem, or an opportunity, that kicks them into action. Something has to happen.

Raise the Dramatic Question:

You put a question in the audience’s mind that needs to be answered by the end of the story.

Usually tied to the desire line. Will he/she achieve their goal or not? Your story will be steadily building towards a climax, and this question establishes that trajectory at the start. It’s important.

Debate and Decision:

Your main characters expresses their fears or reservations about moving forward.

They weigh the pros and cons, and make a decision. As the writer, this is your opportunity to highlight the stakes of the story. How much the main character stands to lose, or gain, – as they decide whether or not to set out on their journey.

Turning Point 1:

This is the end of act 1. How do we know? Because there is…

A major change, or turn, in the story.

Turning point 1 usually sees our main character fully setting out on their journey. Leaving the shire, taking that new job, accepting that invitation to a secret new world. Anything that directly pushes the story into new territory – that’s turning point 1.

Let’s put all of this together into a basic plot line:

ACT 1:

  • Set Up
  • Inciting Incident
  • Raise the Dramatic Question
  • Debate and Decision
  • Turning Point 1

Say: Your main character needs money for an operation.

The inciting incident is when he’s met with an opportunity to make the money he needs. He learns of an underground poker game. Or an old friend recruits him to rob a bank.

Let’s go with the bank robbing.

Okay, so now we have our main character who needs money, and he’s been recruited to rob a bank with his friend.


Now how do we make sure to raise the dramatic question?
Well, in this scenario, it’s already heavily implied. As soon as our main character agreed to rob the bank, we’re now thinking to ourselves… “Will he get the money for his operation?” Will he succeed?

That is the dramatic question that will drive the story. Good job.

Next is debate and decision.
Here our main character takes a moment to weigh the pros and cons of going through with this. He’s already agreed to help his friend rob the bank… but he’s now considering the full ramifications of this. Then he makes a choice. A decision. For the sake of the story, he’s going to decide to do it. Of course he is.

Then we’ve got turning point 1.
Our main character packs a bag and leaves town with his buddy, determined to go rob this bank.

That’s the end of act 1.

To review:

  • We set up our main character and his health problem.
  • He’s got no money or insurance (no easy solutions).
  • His friend comes to him with a plan to rob a bank.
  • He weighs the pros and cons and decides that he’s in.
  • He hops on a plane to join his buddy. Flying straight into act 2…