There are people who can fall in love with a concept and then simply follow it through aimlessly until the end. But to most screenwriters and storytellers, whether developing a story for a feature film or a commercial video production, a little structure helps a lot.
No matter what the story’s about, you’ll need peaks and valleys of intensity. You’ll need major plot points presented with rhythm and pace, and to do all that, you’ll need an outline, first and foremost.
Luckily, in our experience in NY / NJ film and video production, we’ve developed our share of scripts. And when working toward a full-length feature script especially, defining your 7 major plot points is essential to developing an outline that’ll make creating an impactful script a whole lot easier.
The Inciting Incident
After your opening, in which you should introduce your main character and the world he or she lives in, his or her goal, and any important supporting characters, then you need an inciting incident. This is the event that sparks the plot and breaks the main character out of his or her normal, everyday routine.
Obviously, the weight of that kind of incident should provoke a reaction out of the protagonist, perhaps even some resistance to it, and that reaction or apprehension, the fallout, usually lasts for the remainder of the first act until the next major plot point…
The First Act Break
This plot point officially concludes your first act. The fallout from the inciting incident comes to an end, forcing the protagonist to fully commit to the main journey of the story, whether it’s a physical, emotional, or psychological one.
The difference between the inciting incident and the first act break is that the former typically happens to the protagonist whereas the latter is usually an active moment, meaning the protagonist makes a decision to take action.
Think of your inciting incident as part of your setup and your first act break as the true beginning of the main journey of the story. By this point, the audience should have a good idea of who the main characters are, what the main goal is, and what major obstacles are standing in the way.
At the midpoint of act two, something needs to raise the stakes, but there a few ways to approach doing that. There’s the “midpoint mirror,” which is basically a moment that mirrors the ending of the film. So if the hero wins in the end, he or she has a smaller version of a victory here, or vice versa if the ending’s not so happy.
The point is, for the first time, the audience is presented with the real possibility that the hero can actually achieve his or her main goal, or that he or she may actually fail, which allows them to begin pondering what’s truly at stake.
In many comedies or dramas, at this point, a bunch of characters realize they need to work together to achieve the goal, which is another option, but however you approach it, trust us as longtime NY / NJ film and video production experts, the midpoint’s a perfect time to get the audience reinvested in the story.
The Point of No Return
This is when the protagonist’s commitment to reaching the end of the main journey is revitalized. It doesn’t have to be a huge, epic incident, but more of a motivational thing.
Try to think about what motivates the protagonist psychologically, and what would help to get him or her to become more committed than ever to reaching the main objective.
The idea is that, whatever happens, it should give the audience the feeling that there is no more doubt in the mind of the main character. Now, it’s on!
The All Is Lost Moment
It’s probably easy to understand why this next major plot point must be the one that puts the protagonist the furthest away he or she has ever been from achieving the main goal.
In the last major plot point, the main character committed everything to continuing the journey, so now it only makes sense for the end of that journey to suddenly seem more impossible to reach than ever. Many writers like to come up with a series of dramatic events rather than just a single big one to really pile it all on.
For more on creating effective all-is-lost moments, check out this blog from Scribemeetsworld.com: The “All Is Lost” Moment: 3 Essentials to Crafting Your Hero’s Act Two Downfall.
Now, as a longtime NY / NJ video production company, we know that there’s still some debate over whether this point truly marks the end of the second act or if the climax should be included, but most mark this as the end of act two.
Somehow, someway, the main character of the story needs to push on, against all odds, even after the event or series of events that just left him or her with nothing left to lose.
That’s what this plot point is all about. The climax is the final showdown. It’s when the protagonist puts all the lessons he or she has learned throughout act two to work to confront the main obstacle or antagonist and finally reach the end of the main journey of the story. It’s also when he or she overcomes his or her internal flaw.
Then, of course, the main character needs to ride off into sunset, perhaps with a love interest, perhaps alone, or perhaps not at all, if it’s not a happy ending.
Either way, the world of the story you established should be rebalanced in some way, whether for better or worse. No matter if it’s an unhappy ending, a happy one, or a bittersweet, ironic resolution in which the goal is accomplished with a price to pay, this is when you wrap things up.
Think of it as a set of guidelines, not rules.
The bottom line is, while great scripts have been written without any thought of this kind of structure, many follow a very similar path. Some use the 8 sequence structure, which is just another way of creating a proven structure for an outline.
You can learn more about that method by checking out this previous post, The Helpful 8 of Video Production: How to Use the Eight-Sequence Structure, but however you look at it, this kind of approach is simply a set of guidelines, not of strict rules.
It’s used to make things more manageable and to ensure that you write toward a goal so that the entire piece has a sense of unity.
If you can write scripts without these kinds of tools, which is ultimately what they are, then go for it, but if not, think of this as a template you can use when creating your outline to keep yourself on track.
About KVibe Productions: A leading film & video production company in NJ / NY, KVibe offers the total package of film and video production services. Whether it’s a corporate video production, a commercial, a feature film, etc., KVibe creates to inspire.