Screenwriters Beginners,  Screenwriting Basics,  Screenwriting Tips,  Story Structure

How To Understand Act 1 Using The House Analogy

In the 3-act structure it has prevailed to name the beginning of the story, known also as the setup, Act 1. Respectively, Act 2 is the middle of a story, and Act 3 the end. But what exactly is Act 1?

In the first act, we get the following information on the story:

  1. The world in which this story takes place
  2. The major characters and of course the protagonist
  3. The backstory
  4. The problem

Since the actual journey or adventure starts in the second Act, the first Act is the preparation stage where we’re given all the information we’re going to want, all the baggage we’re going to need, to follow along in this journey and to be able to follow the rest of the story.

But the first Act isn’t just about information. The first act’s “job” is to initiate the story. To give the push to the protagonist to make this journey. That’s why analysts have come up with some plot points that are usually necessary in the Act 1.

Major plot points in Act 1

I must stress here that even though plot points can help us a lot in writing a story in the right way and achieving an inner harmony in our story, too many plot points could block our creative spirit and trap us. So, “less is more” in this case.

Having said that, let’s see the major and most important plot points of the first act. The major plot points we find in almost EVERY story in the first Act, are:

In Act 1, there are 3 to 4 important plot points (or turning points).

The hook it’s not a necessary plot point but it’s always clever to have something there to grab your audience’s attention right away. Sometimes the inciting incident and the hook are the same incident, but other times there are two separate events.

The inciting incident is the event that sets the story in motion. Sometimes it can be very subtle but from this point on, the story starts.

The first turning point is an event or incident that turns things around. The problem becomes more imminent for the protagonist and it’s not easy to avoid it now.

The point where act 2 starts is the moment that the actual journey begins, the real adventure starts now for the protagonist.

The House Analogy

I like to compare the first Act to a house.

The inside of the house is the world of the story. That’s the ordinary world of the story. No matter how strange you find it, you need to remember that’s how ordinary seems in this particular story.

In act 1 of your screenplay, we present the everyday world of the story. We're still in the ordinary world.
Vector illustration of a cozy cartoon interior of a home room, a living room with a sofa, coffee table, chest of drawers, shelf and window curtains. Designed by Vectorpocket

Along with the world we get to know all the major characters of the story and of course the most important of all, the protagonist.

Our protagonist can be a man or a woman, a kid, an elder person, a couple, a bear, even a snowman.

The inciting incident is the moment when the doorbell rings or there’s a knocking or some loud noise outside the door. Our protagonist sometimes listens to the door immediately and other times after a while. Finally, the protagonist approaches and decides to open the door. That’s the first turning point. Our protagonist could pretend not hearing it or sleeping heavily, and not answering the door but then we wouldn’t have a story, so at some point the protagonist will open the door.

Now that the door is open the protagonist could take some time, maybe to check what is outside that door and think about it OR could act immediately and step across the threshold leaving the house behind. That’s when the Act 2 begins, because the protagonist is leaving the ordinary world, the comfort zone and steps out to the unknown world.


If you prefer to watch videos rather than reading, you can learn all of the above in this episode:

See you soon! Meanwhile, I’d love to read your comments!

Feel free to ask anything you would like to read on story structure and screenwriting.


  • Harry

    GREAT SITE, best I’ve seen.
    Currently working on a screenplay and my protagonist is an eight-year-old child.
    How do you show a CHARACTER ARC for an innocent child?

    • Apollonia Tsanta

      Hello, Harry! Thanks for your kind words!
      To answer your question, character arc means change. If you choose a child for your protagonist, then you should try to think, what would his/her change be. In “home alone” Kevin believes that he doesn’t need his family, he even wishes that they disappear. But in the end, he has changed his mind. He believes that family is important and that he needs them and loves them.
      I don’t know your story is, but try to choose a change that would fit a child.

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