9-Act Screenplay StructurePlotting Resource
By Jordan Dane
When I was looking for an interesting plot structure for fiction, I found references to the Nine-Act Screenplay Structure. This is the basic framework of today's blockbuster movies. You'll see 3-Acts and 12-Acts, but I played with this version below as a format and had some success in conceptually plotting one or two of my earlier stories. It's my belief that once your brain grasps the concept, you may automatically follow the idea whether you are aware of it or not. As a visual learner, it helped for me to draft this and embed it in my brain, like a time bomb triggered to go off when I sat in front of my computer. (If this is too much drama for you with the whole time bomb thing, get your own website. :)
The 9-Act structure is similar to the classic Hero's Journey that you may have seen, but I thought this was interesting and wanted to post it on my site as a craft topic.
Nine-Act Screenplay Structure
Act 0During Opening Credits First 5 Minutes
What strikes the conflictsets it upevent years earlier may plant the seed of conflict
Act 1Opening ImageThe Panoramic Crane Shot Next 5 Minutes
Act 2Something Bad Happens 5 Minutes
In a crime story, it's usually the murderReveal the bad front man, but hold off on the introduction of the bad head honcho until later
Act 3Meet Hero/Protagonist 15 minutes
Meet herogive him 3 plot nudges to push him to commit
Act 4Commitment 5-10 Minutes
The pushUsually one scene that's a door to Act 51-way door, no turning back
Act 5Go for wrong goal Approx. 30 minutes est.
A series of 8-12 min. cycles called whammos or complications followed by a rest period of 5 minutes or so to uncover some of the backstory. End this act with the lowest point for the protagonist. The dark moment.
Act 6Reversal 5-10 MinutesUsually 70 Minutes into the Film
The last clue discoveredNow Act 2 makes senseIt is the low point, a history lesson usually revealed by the bad guy/honchobut reveals the Achilles heel of the nemesis too.
Act 7Go for New Goal 15-20 Minutes
The clock is tickingHero has a new plan. The action seesaws back and forth with nemesis and hero gaining & losing ground between each otherusually takes place in 24 hours within the context of the movie. Favors are repaid, magic, good luck happens. The new plan is kept secret. New goal is achieved.
Act 8Wrap it Up 5 minutes
Back to where it all begana feeling of accomplishment & rebirththe world restored. Ahh!
© Jordan Dane, 2007