Lesson 2 of 3

Essential Elements of an Opening Act

Act One is there to introduce your protagonist in their ordinary world before hurling them into the heart of your story. There are no rules on how long or short it should be, but a reader will have expectations about character, tone, stakes and theme that you will need to consider.


Famed screenwriter and director Billy Wilder (Some Like it Hot, Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment and many more) had a saying: “If you have a problem in the third act, the real problem is in the first act”. What did he mean by that? Let’s start by looking at some of the essential elements of the opening act of a story.