Blake Snyder’s Hollywood method defines the key plot points and when they occur.
Blake Snyder – The “Save the Cat” method defines the key ‘beats’ or plot points and when they should occur in the story.
In one moment, we set the tone, mood, style, and scope of the story. It’s a ‘before’ snapshot of the hero’s world.
A moment when a secondary character may pose a question or statement that is the theme of the story, or a location might suggest the theme.
Introduce your hero and key characters in your story. Show character flaws that need fixing. It might show the hero’s weakness and need to change. You might also set up the stakes and goal.
A single life-changing event, a Call to Adventure makes the main character realize that Stasis = Death.
This is where the hero reacts to the change that occurs. Should she follow the path this change leads to? The character makes a choice.
Break into Act II
A moment when the hero leaves the old world behind and chooses something new. A strong, definite change as the story proper begins.
B Story Introduction
Sometimes the love story or introducing new characters. This beat gives us a break from the tension of the main story; it is a subplot to carry the theme of the story.
Fun and Games
The heart of the story, promise of the premise, trailer moments. The stakes are not too high yet, the hero is exploring the new world of act 2.
The momentary threshold between the first half and the second half of the story; the stakes are raised; the fun and games are over. It’s sometimes a false success, or more often something goes badly wrong.
Bad Guy Closes In
This section of the story is where the hero is really tested, the knife is twisted. Now a different challenge must be overcome. Perhaps the bad guys regroup and attack; or the hero’s team begins to unravel.
All is Lost
A moment that puts your hero at her lowest point, she is beaten, the hero’s life is in shambles. Blake talks of a ‘whiff of death’ at this point in a story, sometimes the mentor dies, perhaps symbolically. The old way of thinking dies. The hero may give up or run away, there seems no hope.
Dark Night of the Soul
The hero ruminates in the darkness before the dawn. Hero figures out the answer sometimes with insight from the B Story. She will pull out the last, best idea that will save herself and everyone around her.
Break into Act III
The hero has dug deep, learned, changed, and found the solution. The stories carried by the theme and sub plot intertwine with the main plot. The hero has an idea to solve the problem and the end is in sight.
The final act is where the hero triumphs and a new world order is revealed. The bad guys are dispatched, the problem is fixed.
The closing scene should be the opposite of the opening scene; it is the proof that change has occurred and is real. closing scene should be the opposite of opening scene; it is the proof that change has occurred and is real.
A structure that generates cliffhangers and twists from AFI & USC film schools.
Frank Daniel – The 8 Sequence System from USC Film School and AFI.
Status Quo & Inciting Incident
Establishes the central character, their life, and the status quo and the world of the story. Sequence one usually ends with the POINT OF ATTACK or INCITING INCIDENT, but this plot point can sometimes appear earlier in the first few minutes of the film.
Predicament & Lock In
Sets up the PREDICAMENT that will be central to the story, with first glimpses of possible obstacles. The main tension is established at the end of the act. The sequence ends when the main character is LOCKED IN the predicament, propelling her into a new direction to obtain her goal.
First Obstacle & Raising the Stakes
The FIRST OBSTACLE to the central character is faced, and the beginning of the elimination of the alternatives begins, often a time where EXPOSITION left over from ACT I is brought out. Since our character is locked into the situation and can’t simply walk away, there is a RAISING OF THE STAKES with a lot more to lose.
First Culmination & Midpoint
A higher OBSTACLE, the principle of RISING ACTION is brought in and builds to the FIRST CULMINATION, which usually parallels the RESOLUTION of the film. If the story is a tragedy and our hero dies, then the first culmination (or midpoint) should be a low point for our character. If, however, our hero wins in the end of the film, then sequence four should end with her winning in some way.
Subplot & Rising Action
The second act sag may set in at this point if we don’t have a strong SUBPLOT to take the ball for a while. We still want RISING ACTION, but we’re not ready for the MAIN CULMINATION yet.
Main Culmination & End of Act Two
The build-up to the MAIN CULMINATION – back to the main story line with a vengeance. The highest obstacle, the last alternative, the highest or lowest moment and the end of our main tension come at this point. But we get the first inklings of the new tension that will carry us through the third act.
New Tension & Twist
The full yet simple, brief establishment of the third act tension with its requisite exposition. Simpler, faster in nearly all ways, with rapid, short scenes and no real elaborate set-ups. The TWIST can end this sequence or come at the start of the eighth sequence.
Hell-bent for the RESOLUTION. Clarity is important. If they turn left, all is well, if they go right, the world as we know it ends. Not that we don’t have complex emotions or ideas about what it all amounts to, but at this point we crave clarity. Will she get the girl, defuse the bomb, turn in her murderous brother and escape from the sinking boat surrounded by sharks?
Freytag's theater structure was adapted to shape hour-long TV with teasers and tags.
Five-Act TV – Most hour-long TV is built on the 5 act structure from Gustav Freytag. Some shows contain a teaser and tag; these short scenes can be included in the first and fifth acts.
Act 1: Big start / Exposition
Introduce the main characters and backstory. Presents the central dilemma through an “exciting force” or “inciting incident.” Setoff A and maybe B stories. Act ends with a “wow” moment that turns the story.
Act 2: Rising action, conflicts appear
Things escalate. The conflict begins to increase as the characters try to achieve their goals. Expand the world, meet more people, the different trajectories build your narrative toward the climax. C story has three scenes total.
Act 3: The center, things get real bad, climax
The third act contains the worst or most exciting beat, the moment where the tension reaches its peak. Features a turning point – not the culmination of action. At the midpoint, a change ushers in the counterplay.
Story turns in a different direction, new evidence, or a big character revelation. A ticking clock triggers a series of events that build suspense and anxiety about how the story will unfold. B story has one scene per act.
Act 5: Resolution / Tag
A moment of victory, the big reveal, ties up loose ends, brings the narrative to a close. Introduce a cliffhanger for the next episode.