WRITING & STORYTELLING Act 1 (for Books, Screenplays, TV shows, Short Films, & Short Stories) | Jordan Imiola | Skillshare

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WRITING & STORYTELLING Act 1 (for Books, Screenplays, TV shows, Short Films, & Short Stories)

teacher avatar Jordan Imiola, Screenwriter

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Introduction into Act 1


    • 2.

      Exciting Opening


    • 3.

      Setting Up Your Story


    • 4.

      Inciting Incident and Hero's Hesitation


    • 5.

      Review + Writing Advice


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About This Class

This Story Writing Course teaches you how to write and set up an excellent story using proven storytelling techniques used in films, books, plays, TV, and short stories.

Three act structure is in every type of story, and this course breaks down Act 1 of great stories. If you're writing a screenplay, novel, TV pilot, play, short story, or short film, you'll need to set up a story that engages your audience and makes them want to read more!

Find Act 2 HERE

Find Act 3 HERE

This short course uses Act 1 examples from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Office, The Hunger Games, Iron Man, The Goonies, Spider-Man, Parks and Recreation, and other awesome stories.

In this class, you learn how to write: 

  • An excellent opening that hooks in your readers!
  •  Writing Terminology used in films, books, plays, and television stories.
  • How to Brainstorm New Ideas!
  • How to Develop Interesting Characters.
  • What is an Inciting Incident?
  • How should your hero hesitate after the Inciting Incident?
  • Writing Advice and Techniques that will help Launch Your Creativity!

I always feel it’s easier to write once if you break down your story into acts, then scenes then beats, and I’ll teach you how to do that for your first act in your story.

Who this course is for:

  • Writers wanting to create better stories
  • New Writers
  • Old Writers
  • Video Makers
  • Filmmakers
  • Creative Professionals
  • Storytellers
  • Podcasters
  • Everyone who to know more about key concepts in stories and storytelling
  • YouTubers

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Jordan Imiola



Hi, I'm Jordan Imiola, a produced screenwriter with award-winning movies, TV shows, online series, sketches, and much more. In my screenwriting career, I've worked at Fox, Disney, NBCUniversal, Untitled Entertainment, MarVista Entertainment, and Funny Buffalo Films.

I teach writing in every genre, but I've had much success with writing comedy. I've written sketches and performed improv at Second City, and I run the comedy screenwriters and actors community, Deadline Junkies Wednesday. I'm the creator and showrunner of "Romantically Hopeless," "Monster Therapy," and "The Deadline Junkies Screenwriting Podcast," where my two funny friends and I interview TV showrunners, staff writers, and successful blockbuster screenwriters.

I teach screenwritin... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Introduction into Act 1: Hi, I'm Jordan. Them Viola. I write it with many produced projects, published works, and I've sold several screenplays. Every great story has a three-act structure. In this course, we'll dive into how to write your first act and the beginning of your story. I always feel it's easier to write a story and you break it down at Viagra, scene by scene, beat by beat, and write a little bit every day. In this course, I'll be using examples from critically acclaimed and commercially successful movies, books, and TV shows. But you can use the three-act structure for any type of story. If you're writing a screenplay, a book, a play, a graphic novel script, or a short story. You can use the writing principles in this class to set up your story and engage your readers. Now, let's break down X1 and get your story started. 2. Exciting Opening: From the start of your story, you want to hook in the reader and introduce your protagonist or your antagonist. Before we start, let's go over some writing terminology. Protagonist. The protagonist is the hero of your story. It's your main character. And the person who we're rooting for. The antagonist is the villain, the entity that's fighting against your hero and causing them a lot of problems. I want to cover a few more writing terms that I think will help break it down even more and make it easier for you to write beat. A beat is a moment or action by a character. For actors, when they read a script, beats help them determine how to act in a given moment. A group of beats is called a scene. And usually a scene takes place in one location. When your character moves to a different location, it becomes a different scene. Your very first scene should set the tone for the rest of the story and pique the interest of your audience. The first scene of jaws is the first shark attack. Even though we don't see the shark, we are being introduced to the antagonist right away. The first Harry Potter book, harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Voldemort is defeated and the baby who survives the attack is dropped off at the Dursleys house by Dumbledore. My favorite episode of The Office is the injury written by Mindy colleague. In this episode, the first scene hooks us in right away. When Michael calls the office and says he needs help because he burned his foot on a George Foreman grill. The scene gets even better when Dwight races to go rescue Michael, and then he crashes his car into a pole within 3 min to members of the office are now hurt and hilarity ensues. The best superhero films have excellent opening scenes. And the first 4 min of Iron Man, Tony Stark is having fun and an army truck drinking and taking photos with soldiers. When boom, the army truck in front of him gets blown up and they are under attack. Then Tony Stark gets kidnapped. That's the start of an excellent first scene and great story. Another great superhero scene is from the first X-Men. When we see magneto as a little kid bending metal to try and get back to his parents when they are taken away from him in a concentration camp. The opening makes us feel for the antagonists of the movie. And this scene was so good. They did the scene again, an X-Men first-class and the Dark Knight. And the first scene, we are introduced to the Joker. We are hooked by a six-minute bank robbery scene. Whatever your genre, you want to set the tone. If you're writing a comedy, you wanna make your audience laugh from the very start. One great comedy opening is from National Lampoon's Vacation from 1983, written by John Hughes. This is the first of several vacation movies. We are introduced to Clark Griswold and his son Rusty, for the first time when a Clark tries to trade in his car for a sports car. But by the end of the scene, the car dealership has crushed his old car, and Eugene levy convinces Clark to buy a new model of the same car, they just crushed. This first scene sets the tone for the rest of the film. Before moving on, jot down some ideas for an opening that introduces your hero or villain and sets the tone for your story. 3. Setting Up Your Story: After an entertaining opening, you want to set up your main characters. Think about their wants, their problems in the world they live in now before it all changes. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry has a terrible life with the Dursleys, who taught him and treat them so unkindly. He lives in a cupboard under the stairs and has no idea of what's about to come in Home Alone. Kevin wants to get away from his family. And the first 10 min, we see him in constant conflict with them. Kevin tells his mom, everyone in this family hates me. His mom replies that maybe you should ask Santa for a new family. He replies, I don't want a new family. I don't want any family. Family suck. I hope I never see you jerks again. And he wishes they would disappear. Setting up how, how soon get his wish and he'll be home alone. And the pilot episode of the marvelous have some nasal. We see Miriam measles, pretty perfect life. Her marriage, her family, and her upscale apartment on the Upper West Side. She seems to have everything under control. Act one is all set up for everything that will soon be crashing down on her. As much as you can find ways to show. Don't tell. The pilot episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel does a great job at this because we follow and discover the main character's world as she goes about her day. If you ever write a character saying something the audience needs to know, see if you can find a way to show it. This is called show, don't tell. For another great example, watch the second scene of Iron Man. We're told of Tony Stark's history, but it's also shown to us with pictures and magazine covers. We find out Tony's dad was a tightened and the weapons industry. And Tony is a genius. But it's presented very quickly at an award ceremony. And we've already been introduced to Tony Stark through an excellent opening scene. In general, a good guideline when setting up your story is you wanna meet all your main characters who afford the story. And the first 10 min of meet the parents. We meet Greg, his girlfriend Pam, and her parents, Jack and Dina will meet the rest of pants family later. But for now, we know the foremost important characters, Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, are the most essential to the story. You want to give each character strong introduction and make them distinct and interesting. Make sure your characters have a specific attitude and no one sounds the same. If they do sound similar right now, for your first draft, it's okay because this is something you can fix in later drafts. Don't make it too hard on yourself. The most important thing right now is to keep moving forward with your story. To help you develop your characters and set them up. I've added a character questionnaire that will help you discover your characters. Even more. Brainstorm and write down all your main characters. And what is their life like right now before it all changes? Also, think about their wants and their problems. 4. Inciting Incident and Hero's Hesitation: After you set up your story, your main character will experience an inciting incident. This is the thing that will forever change their lives and push her story forward. The Hunger Games, we learn one boy and one girl from each district are selected by an annual lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, where they must fight to the death. Cat and a sister is selected for this, but keratinous decides to take her place instead. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, mysterious letters start coming to the house that Harry is not allowed to open. Then Haggard comes to the house and informs Harry that he's a wizard and home alone. A storm causes all the electricity to go out at McAllister house, and the whole family is running late to the airport. They leave the house and forget the Kevin is still in the attic. Kevin's mom doesn't realize he's not with them until they are on the plane to Paris. And most origin superhero movies, the inciting incident will be the thing that will give them their powers or make them use their powers to save the world. In Spider-Man, Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider. And Dr. Strange, Steven is a neurosurgeon who gets into a car accident that will prevent him from using his hands and operating ever again. Wonder Woman, Steve, Trevor crashes in the water of the mascara, aka Paradise Island, and Diana dives into the water to save him. This will forever change her world for the rest of her life. Your main character doesn't necessarily know that the inciting incident will rock the real-world and push them in a new direction. And the Goon is, the setup is about a group of friends who have to move away from each other when they find a treasure map in an attic, the treasure map will push them into adventure. After the inciting incident, the hero will often hesitate to accept change. Change is necessary for life, but that doesn't mean people like it. Your hero maybe latching onto their old world, even though it's best for them to enter a new world. In Toy Story, what he doesn't like, Buzz wants him to go away. They don't become friends until much later in the movie. In one of my favorite episodes of Parks and Recreation titled Andy and April's fancy party. We find out the reason for the party is that Andy and April or getting married at the party. It's a surprise to everyone when the main character, Lesley Nope, finds out she spends most of her time at the party trying to dissuade April and Andy because they've only been dating for a month. But as any Parks and Rec fan knows, April and Andy are perfect for each other. In the mask, the inciting incident is when Jim Carey's car breaks down and he finds the mask. He almost puts the mask on right away, but hesitates when the cops bottom. It's not until he's back in his apartment is when he puts the mask on in Wonder Woman. We find out what's going on outside of the island. Steve, Trevor is wrapped in the lasso of truth and talks about the circumstances of World War II. This triggers Diana to want to leave the island for the first time and save the world. But Diane, his mom, doesn't want her to leave. This will bring us into act two. When the hero enters a new world, write down some ideas for the inciting incident. What's that thing that will forever change your main character's life? And then think about how they might hesitate to change. 5. Review + Writing Advice: Here's a quick review of act one and some writing advice that may help you have an exciting opening that will draw and hook in your audience. Then set up your characters in an interesting way after your setup, have an inciting incident. This is the thing that will forever change their lives and push the story forward. Then find a way to make your character hesitate to change. Here's some advice for act one and brainstorming ideas. Rule of ten. If you're having trouble writing a scene, I'm a big believer of the rule of ten. I think I heard Jerry Seinfeld first talk about this, but I've heard many others talk about it too. It's where you brainstorm ten things. And then you will find that one thing that works. When I'm stuck on a scene, I'll brainstorm ten things that could happen. Some of them are good ideas, some of them are terrible. But I do find that one I like after I brainstorm ten. Don't put pressure on yourself to make all your ideas, good ideas. Sometimes writing down a few bad ideas, you know, won't work well. Often spark good idea that will work. Determine what your main character wants and then put your protagonist and antagonist wants against each other. Again, if you get stuck in a scene, especially with dialogue, think about what your characters want in that scene. Show. Don't tell. If you ever find a character saying something the audience needs to know. See if you can find a way to show it. Be disciplined about your writing. If you want to complete your story, you have to be disciplined about your writing. And here's a few things that can help that writing a little bit every day will go a long way. Some people take ten years to write one thing because they say they never have the time. But all your excuses are not going to move your story forward. If you write a little bit every day, you'll have a lot done after a month. And it'll make it easier on your brain to remember what you have done so far and where you're going. Five-minutes a day rule. I'm a big fan of the five-minutes a day rule, and I often tell this to my friends a lot. Before you go to bed each night, make sure you wrote for at least 5 min. And 5 min isn't asking too much of yourself. And many times, five-minutes will become a lot longer if you become inspired and if you don't, after five-minutes, just try it again tomorrow. You have to treat the creative process like a muscle. Muscles have muscle memory, work that muscle every day. If you wait a week for right, you'll spend half your time thinking about what you've already done instead of moving forward, find a ritual that helps you, right? See if you can find the time of the day that works best for you. I always recommend mornings before you go to work because this way, you'll think about your writing throughout the day. Keep the file open on your computer. Keep your writing file open on your computer constantly. This will make you think about your story more and more. Make it the last thing you look at, and the first thing you'll look at when you open your computer. I hope you enjoyed this class. Please leave a review and if you upload your project, I'll check it out. If you liked this class, please follow me on Skillshare and check out my other classes. Thank you for watching right on.