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The Screenwriters Toolkit

Lesson 9 of 21

Act One: How to Write Plot Point One


The Screenwriters Toolkit

Lesson 9 of 21

Act One: How to Write Plot Point One


Lesson Info

Act One: How to Write Plot Point One

Act one start with your status quo that is the world of your story the character and his situation his or her situation and set the tone for the whole piece these air what's done when we start to get into act one from the beginning um then we have the inciting incident this interrupts the status quo this puts the story into motion this is the thing that is going to lead us to the rest to the end of act one actually all the way the rest of the story so you want to talk about some examples um it could be argued that in the social network the inciting incident is literally the first scene when it happens by the end of it but and it's a long one final but markets rejected by this girl erica and as a result he creates a social network it's sort of leads to the hole I think um you have other stories like where a status quo is set up in the avengers uh the marvel movie this villain loki comes to earth to conquer it early on that's an inciting incident that interrupts the status quo that we st...

arted in bride's maids lillian tells annie that she's engaged in once any to be her maid of honor that interrupts the status quo and sets the story in motion um in chinatown classic course in p ay movies things start because somebody goes through fbi and hires him damn you got your inciting incident so it kind of did a little spit on that it's uh he gets hired by evelyn mall ray to investigate something and then he gets sued by the rial evelyn mulberry because it wasn't evelyn mowbray who hired him uh that's the inciting incident in fargo um jerry london guard hires two thugs to kidnap his own wife so he could get the ransom money from his father in law the inciting incident um juno she discovers she's pregnant inside now fight club this is interesting because I've read about fight club after the fact where people are talking about all these different parts of it like inciting incident plot points and all that and it's kind of interesting for me to read it um I'm going to say what they said and I think basically I don't disagree with it but what's interesting is there's different ways to look at it um jack I call him jack he actually didn't have a name at all but in the screenplay had to be called something I didn't want to put the narrator the narrator the narrator there so jack meets tyler durden on an airplane is that the inciting incident? It happens pretty late in act one but one could say that everything must flow from that in this particular story he meets him it's like no one has ever met becomes obsessed with him um, is it why would say yes, I would, but one could back up and say no, he found a solution to his numbness. And isn't somini abi going to support groups for people with terminal illnesses? And suddenly he could feel again, and they could sleep again, and then more less singer shows up and she's also using them for her own purposes without having any of the diseases these people have. And now he can't sleep he's back to the problem he had before. Is that the inciting incident? Well, it could be, and the question becomes even more complicated by the fact that given what we know, spoilers about what the reality is fight club, that in fact, tyler durden and jack the same person you could say that meeting marla is the inciting incident, not only because she caused a problem with this solution that was giving him relief by ruining the support groups, but it's because of meeting her that he creates tyler durden. She is the catalyst for creating that character, so I would say simply could be argued both ways. It's either win, he meets marla or when he meets tyler. Um, can I be a good thing that there's ambiguity? I think so, you know, I'm beginning my yes, yes. It's it's like you know I found myself before where I feel like there's two plot points at the end of act one there's two plot points back to you know you find things like that but generally one is really it and there's nothing wrong necessary having a narrative where there are turns that happened where you could debate which part of this structure is that I don't think that's necessarily bad um so story has been put in motion status quos interrupted now we're going um plot point one this is at the end of act one the inciting incident has led the lead character to this point and at this point the character has to make a decision a choice do in action or or is presented with something that he must do something about which will involve back to um plot point ones let's look itself fellman louise um louise shoots that would be rapist that exact one that definitely kicks at two off. No question about it um something like the social network it's the twins hiring mark to make their dating website because that basically puts into motion everything he's going to end up using for himself for his own social network brides maids um act one ends with um any the chosen maid of honor having a microphone fight with helen the rather well off in perfect bridesmaid who feels like she should be the maid of honor and that kicks off act to, um in chinatown the real evelyn mullery drops the lawsuit, but jake guinness says I'm not dropping this basically now I want to know what's going on with this mall raise a bunch of people in fargo jerry tries to call off the kidnapping, but he can't reach the thugs so they successfully kidnap his wife has planned and he wanted to call it off. So bam act too has to happen now know way back um in juneau, she decides to go through with her pregnancy so that exact one, we're going back to, um in fight club it's uh, tyler durden will let jack status place if he doesn't one favor, I want you to hit me as hard as you can hit me as hard as you can and they traded back and forth and the fight club idea is born with these two guys. So that's the end of act one and, um, right before that, by the way and it's something to think about because that's the plot point that spins us intact to that's what it is. But right before that in your act one something happened to kind of in the act right before you have that moment in this particular case jack's condo blew up that was sort of like bam that's how act one started to end and then the ending wass hit me as hard as you can and that's the plot point that goes into act two um so I would like you tell me about your act one briefly just in terms of inciting incident point one um like just a quick paragraph about how we get through to him yeah sciences status quo inciting incident plot point one um so the a v tack with disability I uh you know bionic leg is what it ends up being he goes to work they need help getting up on trust he goes up there but accidentally get shot off somewhere else so he's able to help but then its like comic relief like it kind of throwing around um he goes up to where all the other a v techs are eats seafood because there's always lots of food in the back always uh poison's bad guys come storming in through the building he happens to be in the toilet with bad diarrhea he learns about the situation on his iphone and that's when the bad guys come storming in to use the bathroom one day a guy comes in and he takes out the bad guy because he finds out the president's daughter's going to be held hostage and he wants to do something about it and that's the plot point at the end of act one takes out that bad yeah takes out the bag so this is the inside incident that the bad guys came into the building that yeah that's right that would be the inciting incident guys enter the venue um right calvin it was the status quo and they come in that interrupting sorry go ahead just some movies you know you got the bad guy menacing by the back a like right at the very beginning and I always kind of felt like that was just leaving it a little too much you know I wanted there to be more buildup on dh that's what I enjoy playing around with his uh building it up because we got like a whole half hour so why you know show all your cards at once right and then you are the bad guys you know there's so many different bad guys movies you know are they from the country or you know or they just a bunch of crazy italians that air half drunk and you know like is there a way to to make it fun and exciting without being too stereotypical um but yeah so it's basically gonna die our situation right this is the guy even though he's got his own personal issues that he has to get through basically he loves to just kind of jump in but then he gets beat up in the process right so that's what he's gotta learn that's how dio uh create a plan ok that's not makes great yeah now tell me about your act one in terms of status quo inciting incident, plot point one sure so in the future that I'm currently working on that when we did the character interview for earlier uh, my main character when is a very busy senior college student and she takes care of her parents and her sister, and she just has a lot of work to do she's very into her studies and the inciting incident comes along when the gnu recruiter interviews with her and tells her that she's not quite what they're looking for, but there's this big contest going on and if she's able to get a team together and do well, that anyway will reconsider her. And so that leads into the first plot point where although she's kind of has all this other stuff to do, she decides to take it on and she's president of the sociology club, so she announces it to the club and has them sign up on the official team roster with her so it's really like I'm going to do it that's the part? Yeah, like it's decided, and she gets other people involved, right? And you sort of built to that with there's problems with doing it right, but she decides to do yes like it, which is good you didn't kill her, but she's doing it anyway, right? Okay, um tell me about your act. One of the status quo is just this young married couple of it have kids and my inciting incident I would be when she, when the wife has the horrific accident and then as soon as she does at first, he's trying teo keep it together by himself. And when he starts accepting the help when the good when the sister and the best friend just charge in and take over and that would be my first plot point. Right, good, good. And somebody finds the real scott. You know what? Um, yeah, the inciting incident is that we need to find scotty adi, get him girlfriend and the big event or the end of act one is scott says that he actually does have a girlfriend. And then he's dating scarlett. You're hansen and the end of act one is that tim needs to prove that scott is not dating scarlett. You're handsome he's to prove it. Yeah, he's approved everyone that his girlfriend, who is actually very clearly a homeless woman, is not scarlett johansson. All right, good comedy.

Class Description

Screenwriting classes often either lean too heavily on theory or simply study the technical approach to writing without a greater context for its use, as if the act of screenwriting exists in a vacuum – it does not. In The Screenwriters Toolkit with Jim Uhls, you’ll learn both the nuts and bolts of the craft, as well as its relationship to getting your work read and ultimately produced.

Jim’s sceenwriting credits include the modern classic “Fight Club” the feature-film "Jumper" the NBC television film "Semper Fi" and the SyFy miniseries "Spin" In this class, he’ll share lessons from his extensive experience writing for Hollywood and the small screen. He’ll teach you how to develop better scripts, get traction for your projects, and navigate the complex professional landscape of script development.

You’ll learn about screenwriting form and content, including:

  • Vocabulary and formats
  • Dialogue vs silence
  • Adapting existing works for the screen
  • Genre-writing

Jim will also share essential insights on developing a career in screenwriting. 

You’ll learn:

  • The differences between writing for television and features
  • Who to work with: agents vs managers vs lawyers
  • How to obtain and manage projects of various sizes and contexts

The Screenwriters Toolkit is a comprehensive examination of screenwriting form, content, craft, and traffic. You’ll learn how to adapt your content to the size, genre, and desired professional result of the script while also learning about the best on-ramps for aspiring writers.


Karla KL Brady

I would definitely recommend this class for first-time screenwriters and writers in general. I'm a novelist that would like to turn a couple of my stories into screen plays. I was mostly interested in the "dos and don'ts" which he supplied in a generous number. He gave a lot of great examples. I enjoyed the format with the students and he pretty much walks you through the entire process, including and especially the three-act structure which can be applicable to novel writing, too. He gave a lot of great examples. I would have liked a more extensive discussion on loglines and writing the action, but this certainly is enough to get you started. For the price, you can't beat it.


I came to this site by accident and then found some well known internet marketers here, who had already been sending me helpful emails and offers for some time, which I have used. What I like about the video contents is, that it is good old-fashioned skills and crafts development, rather than just formulaic, churn it out in big numbers advice. Whether screen writing, script writing, creative writing, news writing, etc. there is a structure and guideline for contents, order, grammar, etc., but the appeal is towards the development of one's creative side. I am normally involved in non-fiction writing, so this is a nice, creative side-kick, which no doubt will help my other work. As prolific author Isaac Asimow said, "If you want to learn to write, then you must write".


I would certainly recommend it to others, as there are some really great tips throughout the courses, across various aspects of film script writing.. That said, I would like to recommend however: - to have one version that is focused solely on film writing; eliminating the parts about teleplays and series, as those one or two did not relate to the rest of the course. - in its place, I would have loved to observe the coaching and critique on the writers film ideas, loglines, titles and such. I was very interested in knowing the do's and don'ts, what works and doesn't work, and what the proper approach is. Although he made mention of some of them in his overall content, relating them back to the writer's specific work would have been very beneficial.