For the first act, introduce the world you are fashioning. Show the norm for the protagonist and let the audience know the protagonist’s goal. Somewhere in the first five to seven pages, make known the basic want of the protagonist. The want is the external goal of our hero as opposed to what he or she actually needs, which is the internal struggle. For instance, the protagonist wants fame and fortune, but what they need is to learn to live with the resources that they have and not seek notoriety. The protagonist wants to win the beautiful person with all the right physical features, but what they need is to find his or her ideal companion.
However, the antagonist shakes the protagonist’s wants and world. The protagonist may not yet know that the antagonist is causing his or her world to be disrupted, but they do know that unpleasant or uncomfortable things are happening. The story line will dictate when the actual antagonist is physically brought into the story. Nevertheless, the goal of the antagonist should bump up against the want of the protagonist in this sequence. The antagonist needs to be brought into the story as soon as possible, although if it is not an appropriate moment to show the antagonist yet, the audience needs to recognize who or what this person or force is and what danger the antagonist poses for the protagonist and/or their world.
The eternal debate rages among screenwriters over when the inciting incident should occur, but the prevailing belief is that it should happen as a natural part of the story and not be forced, so long as it happens in the first act. Therefore, it can occur as early as in the opening scene or in the last scene of the second sequence. Regardless, Sequence One ends with the first critical decision made at some point by the protagonist.
As already mentioned, critical decisions are choices the protagonist must make to move the story forward. One choice and the story is over and there is no movie; a second choice and the protagonist is wittingly or unwittingly propelled into the next sequence. This is best illustrated in The Matrix.
The protagonist is presented with two choices-a red pill and a blue pill. If Neo chooses the blue pill, his memories of the real world will be wiped away and he will return to the ignorant bliss of believing that the world created by the antagonistic force is real. However, if Neo takes the red pill, he will become part of the movement that knows the painful reality. Blue pill and the movie is over, red pill and Neo pushes the story forward to the next act. If the inciting incident has not yet taken place, the first critical decision at the end of the introduction sequence will lead to it.