The three elements of a story appear infused throughout an entire screenplay. If you omit these crucial elements of a story, you risk boring your audience.
Every screen play consists of three Acts where Act I introduces us to an Inciting Incident, which is something that starts the story going. Act II contains the Rising Action where the hero is battling obstacles and we’re left wondering if the hero will emerge victorious or not. Act III is the Climax where we see who wins.
Divide each Act into 30 minute segments and each segment contains its own Inciting Incident, Rising Action, and Climax. Divide each 30 minute segment into 15 minute segments and that segment will also have its own Inciting Incident, Rising Action, and Climax.
Drill down even deeper into a specific scene and that scene will also have an Inciting Incident, a Rising Action, and a Climax. You absolutely must have all three of these elements embedded throughout your screenplay because that’s what keeps us watching and wanting to know what happens next.
In examining “Star Wars,” the Inciting Incident occurs when R2D2 and C3PO escape with the secret plans to the Death Star. The Rising Action is where Darth Vader is trying to retrieve those plans, and the Climax occurs when the Death Star blows up.
Now examine just Act III of “Star Wars.” The Inciting Incident is when the Death Star discovers the rebel’s base. The Rising Action occurs when the Death Star tries to blow up the rebel base before the rebels can stop the Death Star. The Climax is when the Death Star blows up.
Let’s drill down deeper into a specific scene where Luke pilots his X-Wing fighter into the Death Star trench (Inciting Incident). Darth Vader gets behind him and starts blasting away Luke’s escorts (Rising Action) causing us to wonder, will he make it? The climax occurs when Luke fires the photon torpedos into the vent and blows up the Death Star.
It’s the DNA of every story and every movie. Pick apart any good movie and you’ll find these same three elements in even the simplest scene.