Plots, part 4

The Hero’s Journey (aka classic plot, archplot structure, etc) is popular yet also complicated. Everyone has a slightly different idea on what each part should be. There are general ideas, sure, and the specifics differ.

“[Archplot is a goal-oriented plot where] for better or worse, an event throws a character’s life out of balance, arousing in him the conscious and/or unconscious desire for that which he feels will restore balance, launching him on a Quest for his Object of Desire against forces of antagonism (inner, personal, extrapersonal). He may or may not achieve it.” – McKee

Billy Wilder has a really simplified view:

  • Act I: put the character up in a tree
  • Act II: set the tree on fire
  • Act III: get your character down

This is from information compiled by Ingrid Sundberg. (Source image at the bottom.)

Act I

The Ordinary World (beginning: 25%). In a movie, this would be the first 30 minutes.

  • Ordinary world
    • The known, the set-up, the status quo, limited awareness
  • Call to adventure
    • Inciting incident, the call to action, the catalyst
  • Refusal of the call
    • Threshold guardians, defining moment, separation, reluctance, new situation, the debate, meeting the mentor
  • Crossing the first threshold
    • Energetic marker 1: end of the beginning
    • The point of no return, committing to the goal, break into two, turning point 1, the threshold, awakening
    • Plot point 1, act 1 climax

Act II

The Special World (middle: 50% of the story). In a movie, this would take up the next hour or so. (Minutes 30-90).

  • Tests, allies, enemies
    • The fun and games, resistance and struggle, rising action and obstacles, belly of the whale, push to the breaking point, the special world, road of trials
  • Midpoint
    • Energetic marker 2: halfway point
    • Mid-act climax, moment of grace, mindfuck moment, moment of enlightenment, commitment to the journey, progress
  • Approaching inmost cave
    • Challenges and temptations, grace and fall, resistance and struggle, complications and higher stakes, the bad guys close in, intensification, preparation, rising action, obstacles
  • Inmost cave
    • Energetic marker 3: Crisis
    • Dark night of the soul, abyss and revelation, the major assault, death of the ego, death experience, rock bottom, the ordeal, the crisis, big change, epiphany
    • Plot point 2, act 2 climax


The Ordinary World (end: 25%). In a movie, this would take up the last 30 minutes or so. (Minutes 90-120).

  • Final Push
    • The descent, the sprint
  • Seizing the Sword (Climax)
    • Energetic marker 4: Climax
    • Seizing the prize, transformation, finale, break into three, the final incident
  • Return with the elixir
    • Transformation and return, rapidly falling action, the road back, denouement, new life, resolution, aftermath, a new status quo
  • End Scene

Here’s the full easy-to-read chart I took this information from. I typed everything out so I can copy-and-paste in the future, if need be. (It’s easier to use when I have both text and an image.)


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