As many of you know, a screenplay is broadly divided into three acts:
1. The beginning (Setup) that is 22 to 30 pages long,
2. Middle (confrontation or conflict) that is about 60 pages long, and
3. End (Resolution) that is about 25 to 30 pages long.
But what most fresh screenwriters don't seem to understand correctly and make a technical mistake in is the first act (the beginning or the setup) where their writing indicates their misunderstanding of the difference between the inciting incident and plot point I, the two major highs in the first act.
Let's have a look at the definitions in order to make it easy for us to properly differentiate between the two screenplay elements and consequently be able to write Act I of our screenplays in the most effective way possible:
What is the Inciting Incident?
An inciting incident is the event that throws the everyday life of the protagonist out of balance. The event;
* must NOT has to do anything with the will of the protagonist,
* doesn't necessarily have to be the reaction of something the protagonist did at the start of the screenplay, and
* must NOT be the reaction of something the protagonist did in his life that existed before the start of the screenplay.
What is the Plot Point I?
Plot point I or the first turning point in a screenplay is the event that takes place either by the will of the protagonist himself or without his will and forces his circumstances to a whole new direction. The plot point I is the result of the inciting incident.
The above definitions of the two elements of Act I may make you think that the inciting incident is the biggest thing that occurs in Act I. If it is indeed the case, you are actually disagreeing with the screenwriting coaches who teach in screenwriting academic programs and those screenwriting experts who have written and published books on screenwriting as those screenwriting courses and books which talk about plot point I in details maintain that the plot point I is the most biggest thing that happens in Act I. And you know what? They are absolutely right.
Let me explain it to you.
Regardless of which one of the two appears to be the biggest event in Act I, it will remain the fact that plot point I is the biggest one of the two because it is the plot point I that turns the story into a whole new, more conflicting and progressive direction. Moreover, the inciting incident complements the plot point I and the case is not the opposite. In this regard plot point I is taken into consideration as the biggest event of Act I among Hollywood professionals.
Now that you are aware of the difference between the inciting incident and plot point I, it's time now to start writing. So do it!
M.d Tabish Faraz is a freelance screenwriter, creative web content writer, article writer, and copywriter