An Unhealthy Choice: Setting Up the First Act

MehBoomHero’s Journey is the classic stock-plot framework; it works and you can build upon it in infinite ways. From a three-act perspective, this sets up our narrative and story, but it often all hinges on a single decision – an unhealthy one at that.

This is the moment where many viewers/readers will say, “Why didn’t they just do THIS?” The easy answer is “because then we wouldn’t have a story,” but the trick is to make the audience feel enough for the character to go along with it and propel the story forward…not always an easy task.

This setup also plays strongly into the ending; if the journey and character growth promised at the start isn’t clear, any ending – no matter how many explosions and cool character deaths take place – will fall short and leave the audience feeling unfulfilled by the experience. A solid story needs to provide what was promised, even if it’s not exactly in the way the audience imagined it.

Listen to Pixar’s Michael Arndt, screenwriter for Toy Story 3, explain first-act methodology (it’s cooler than it sounds) with examples from The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and the original Toy Story.

Got all that? Now, get back to writing!