Screenwriting Tricks for Authors

Nanowrimo: 10 Essential Elements of Act I

Here are ten must-have story elements of Act I, no matter what genre you’re working in!


If you can write out these elements of your book or script, you will be in great shape to launch into Nanowrimo, if you’re doing it—or to jump-start your book or script, whether you’re doing Nano or not.

First, let’s see these elements in a in a narrative that gives

you the basic flow of Act I.


We meet the HERO/INE in their ORDINARY WORLD.

They have:

And an ANTAGONIST, or several, who will stand in the way of the protagonist getting what they want, and possibly wants exactly the same thing that they want.

A Big Thing (INCITING INCIDENT) happens: they get a CALL TO ADVENTURE: a phone call, an invitation, a look from a stranger, that invites them to change their life.

That Inciting Incident crystallizes a specific DESIRE, something that they want very badly.

That impulse may be blocked by a

  • Threshold Guardian
  • And/or the ANTAGONIST
  • And/or the character has INTERNAL CONFLICT; they are reluctant to take the journey.

But they overcome whatever opposition,

Gather a TEAM of ALLIES and maybe the advice of a MENTOR

Formulate a specific PLAN to get what they want

And Cross the Threshold Into a SPECIAL WORLD that is very different from their Ordinary World.

I’ve compiled links to in-depth posts and videos on these elements. You can also find in-depth discussions of Act I Elements in Chapters 7-12 and the story breakdowns of the workbooks: Stealing Hollywood and Writing Love.)

Continue reading for questions to help you define each of these Elements for your story!