FILM MAKING 101 - Writing a Treatment

STEP 1: Watch the Story Structure - Parts of a Story video on youtube.

Most stories follow a structure that we will use in this class for your short film. To understand this structure we will watch a short video called Story Structure - Parts of a Story.


  1. Setting - setting refers to the time and place of the story.
  2. Conlfict - refers to the problem in the story
  3. Plot - refers to events surrounding the conflict
  4. Exposition - events before the conflict is set into motion
  5. Inciting Incident - inciting incident is when the conflict is introduced. The inciting incident sets the conflict in motion.
  6. Rising Action - events leading up to the action
  7. Climax - the turning point in the story. This is the moment when the momentum in the story shifts. The main character learns something new or some change takes place. Now the conflict can be addressed.
  8. Falling action - events after the climax of the story. Events leading toward the resolution of the story.
  9. Moment of final suspense - the main character is challenged one last time. Not every story has a moment of final suspense. It may be the most exciting moment in the story.
  10. Resolution - events after the conflict has been resolved. This is the end of the story.


STEP 2: Freytag's Pyramid

Sometimes life is not simple. Stories are not always easy to understand, either.Gustav Freytag was a Nineteenth Century German novelist who saw common patterns in the plots of stories and novels and developed a diagram to analyze them. He diagrammed a story's plot using a pyramid like the one shown here:


Break Down the Pyramid

Not every story you read can be diagrammed perfectly according to Freytag's Pyramid, but many can. Before we look at an example with Titanic, lets try to simplify Freytag's Pyramid by breaking it down into just three parts: beginning, middle and end.

Which parts of Freytag's Pyramid would form the beginning of a story?

Which parts would make up the middle?

Which parts would make up the end?

1. Exposition: setting the scene. The writer introduces the characters and setting, providing description and background.

2. Inciting Incident: something happens to begin the action. A single event usually signals the beginning of the main conflict. The inciting incident is sometimes called 'the complication'.

3. Rising Action: the story builds and gets more exciting.

4. Climax: the moment of greatest tension in a story. This is often the most exciting event. It is the event that the rising action builds up to and that the falling action follows.

5. Falling Action: events happen as a result of the climax and we know that the story will soon end.

6. Resolution: the character solves the main problem/conflict or someone solves it for him or her. At this point, any remaining secrets, questions or mysteries which remain after the resolution are solved by the characters or explained by the author. Sometimes the author leaves us to think about the THEME or future possibilities for the characters.

You can think of the resolution as the opposite of the exposition: instead of getting ready to tell us the story by introducing the setting and characters, the author is getting ready to end it with a final explanation of what actually happened and how the characters think or feel about it. This can be the most difficult part of the plot to identify, as it is often very closely tied to the resolution.