Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Inciting Event: Harry receives his invitation to Hogwarts School—which his horrible uncle promptly takes away from him. This event occurs a bit early in the First Act, but it’s clearly Harry’s first brush with the conflict (the Call to Adventure), which is promptly rejected for him by his aunt and uncle.

Hagrid’s subsequent arrival to escort forcibly (as far as the aunt and uncle are concerned) Harry to Hogwarts is the turning point in the First Act, which is usually the Inciting Event, but in this instance, is actually the Key Event, in which Harry steps out of his Normal World.

First Plot Point: Harry and the other students—including Ron and Hermione—arrive at Hogwarts. This closes the door opened by the Key Event: this is where Harry steps into the adventure world of the Second Act.

First Pinch Point: A dangerous troll invades the school’s dungeons, and Harry and Ron bravely face it in order to rescue Hermione. Harry believes the troll was let in by the suspicious Professor Snape, whose subsequent injury Harry believes was received when Snape tried to get past the three-headed dog Fluffy to gain whatever it’s guarding.

Although the specifics of Harry’s conclusions are entirely wrong, this is an ample emphasis of the antagonistic force’s power and intent within the conflict. The presence of the troll makes it a nicely “big” scene that easily turns the plot.

Midpoint: During the Quidditch match, Harry’s new Nimbus 2000 broom goes haywire. Hermione sees Snape casting a spell and, believing he’s jinxing Harry. She lights his cloak on fire with her wand. This delightfully big set-piece scene easily fulfills Sam Peckinpah’s suggestion that the Midpoint be the story’s “centerpiece.”

The revelation at the heart of the scene is, again, entirely wrong in its specifics. But it reinforces to the children that something is very off at Hogwarts and that someone is out to kill Harry if he keeps interfering.

Second Pinch Point: While sneaking into the restricted section of the library in an attempt to find out more about what Fluffy is hiding, Harry (wearing an invisibility cloak) witnesses Snape threatening another teacher—Professor Quirrell. Snape nearly catches Harry, further emphasizing what is at stake for Harry.

Third Plot Point: While serving detention with Hagrid in the Dark Woods, Harry encounters the evil Voldemort—who killed Harry’s parents and left Harry himself scarred. Voldemort has killed a unicorn and is drinking its blood. He very nearly kills Harry himself, before a centaur intervenes.

The force of this plot point is more emotional than anything—Harry’s life is at stake and he is affected by his first encounter with Him We Do Not Speak Of. But this isn’t a particular big or weighty plot point, and it doesn’t force Harry to a noticeable low point.

Climax: Believing Snape has found a way past Fluffy, Harry, Ron, and Hermione rush to stop him from taking the life-giving Philosopher’s Stone—which they believe he intends to give to Voldemort. They are stymied by a life-size game of lethal wizard’s chess, in which Ron sacrifices himself, so Harry can continue on to the final confrontation. The villain who is hosting Voldemort’s remains turns out to be Quirrell, not Snape.

Climactic Moment: Harry kills Quirrell, and Voldemort’s spirit flees.

Resolution: House Gryffindor, to which Harry and his friends belong, are rewarded the coveted House Cup, as the result of their actions. They all leave Hogwarts for the summer holidays.

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