It Happened One Night

Inciting Event: Down-on-his-luck newspaperman Peter Warne figures out that his bus-riding partner is the runaway heiress Ellie Andrews. Quite a bit has happened up to this point: Ellie has run away from her father, Ellie and Peter have met, and Ellie has had her suitcase stolen and has missed the bus. But this is the Inciting Event, because this is what gives Peter the goal of writing a story about Ellie.

First Plot Point: After the road washes out, halting the bus, Peter rents a cabin for himself and Ellie. He blackmails her into agreeing to let him follow her to her “husband,” so he can get the story. Why is this the First Plot Point and not the earlier moment where he conceives his goal of writing the story about Ellie? Because this story is a romance, and this is the moment that finally throws Peter and Ellie together. The scene itself–the two of them undressing and sleeping in the same room–emphasizes the coming romance, and the deal they strike means they will have to be in each other’s presence for the rest of the story. Their “Normal World” as two independent people riding on the same bus is now ended.

First Pinch Point: Detectives hired by Ellie’s father come to the cabin looking for Ellie. On its most fundamental level, the antagonistic force in this story is anything that tries to separate Ellie and Peter. They don’t yet care for each other, so this first pinch point focuses the threat that Ellie may be returned to her father–instead of her husband. That threat comes later.

Midpoint: After a man on the bus recognizes Ellie’s picture in the newspaper, Peter and Ellie leave the bus to spend the night in a haystack. Not only does this force them into a new series of actions, but it also births the moment when they first realize they’re falling in love with each other.

Second Pinch Point: At his wit’s end, Ellie’s father finally makes peace with her husband and convinces him to tell reporters they’ve made up and that Ellie can safely come up and officially marry him in a real wedding. This pinch point happens outside of Ellie’s and Peter’s immediate awareness. Even when Ellie sees the announcement in the paper, it doesn’t immediately force any action from her. But it sets up turning point in the Third Plot Point.

Third Plot Point: After Ellie tells Peter she loves him, he leaves her sleeping at another auto park cabin and rushes to New York to write his article, so he will have enough money to return and marry her. But Ellie awakes before he returns and thinks he has left her. She calls her father and returns to New York with her husband.

Climax: Ellie’s wedding day arrives. The descent toward her doom kicks into high gear.

Climactic Moment: After her father tells her that Peter really does love her, Ellie runs away in the middle of her wedding ceremony.

Resolution: Ellie’s marriage is annulled. She marries Peter and the “walls of Jericho” come down.

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