40 Plot Points for Feature Films

Even if you are not interested in doing a feature right now, review these plot points to get an idea of what you might be able to add to your short somewhere. Using plot points will make writing treatments and scripts much easier. For a feature treatment, I usually brainstorm a few ideas of what might happen at each of the 40 points, fill in symbolic scene locations, and then play with the order in which they occur. These plot points do not have to occur in this exact order by any means. The film Memento opens with the last plot point and goes backward. Lots of films jump around through time, starting after the climax and looking back, or with another character telling someone a story about something that has already happened. You could randomly pick numbers 1 through 40 out of a hat and construct a story using these plot points. The following 40 plot points are my interpretation of Michael Feit Dougan's 40 plot points.

40 plot points = 3 pages per plot point = 120 pages/minutes

1) Hook. Transition from the real world into to the film world.
2) Setup. Introduce the protagonist and show what is normal.
3) Enter antagonist. Doing what he or she does best.
4) Supporting characters. Show us different sides of protagonist and film world.
5) Plot goal/want. First plot goal defined when a problem arises.
6) Theme goal defined/need. Use metaphor. A character could talk about a fable.
7) Gauntlet. Antagonist goals established.
8) First test. Protagonist may fail at first test to show his or her weaknesses.
9) Inciting incident. An event that changes the status quo (what's normal).
10) Exile. The protagonist leaves the familiar world and sets off on goal.


Learn about the other 30 plot points for feature films in "Developing Digital Short Films"!


"When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost - and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom the work is likely to sprawl."

- T.S. Elliot

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