The sixth 15-minute segment of a story is where the hero is on the defensive and makes the end of Act II.
The sixth segment of a story is where the villain takes control and puts the hero on the defensive, marking the end of Act II and the beginning of Act III. The Inciting Incident occurs when the villain shows up to deal with the hero. This is the first time that the villain has taken a conscious decision to confront the hero. In the earlier parts of the story, the villain was mostly unaware of the hero’s presence, just the hero’s actions on the villain’s own plans.
The villain puts a plan into action to take out the hero. The hero escapes but the villain finally achieves his goal. Often times, someone close to the hero will die or the hero will simply find himself isolated and alone.
In “Die Hard,” this occurs when Bruce Willis finds himself with bleeding feet in the bathroom, talking to the other police officer by radio. In “WALL-E,” this moment occurs when WALL-E and Eve find themselves about to be dumped out the trash airlock. In “Star Wars,” this is where Obiwan-Konobi dies and Luke escapes in the Millennium Falcon. In “Terminator 2,” this is where the Terminator and the boy finally blow up the computer factory and escape, leaving the mastermind behind Skynet to die and detonate the bombs in the laboratory.
During this sixth segment, the villain is in control and the hero is mostly reacting while trying to achieve his or her own goal, which can be simply surviving. The net should be closing in on the hero at this point with a sense that this time, there can be no escape for the hero. He must either defeat the villain or lose. This segment is usually where the hero reaches the lowest point of the story. To emphasize this low point, this is where someone often dies or leaves the hero isolated.
This sixth 15 minute segment marks the end of Act II and points the hero closer to the inevitable meeting with the villain. Whatever lessons the hero is going to learn, it all stops at the end of this sixth segment. From this point on, it’s up to the hero to win or lose based on the knowledge he or she has gained throughout Act II (the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth segments).
The purpose of ending Act II on such a negative, down note is to contrast against Act III where the hero achieves the final victory. The lower you take your hero, the higher the ultimate victory in Act III will appear.