The initial equilibrium state, where the major dramatic and matched
potential is established for the ensuing story, and the major forces balance each other out.
Include an image, series of images, or anything that tends to establish what the ensuing story
will be about (narratively or thematically) without being a necessary part of the storyline
itself. This may be the very first narrative description of the movie. If an intentional
establishing image is not included, the title; the careful naming of characters, place names,
etc.; the first line of dialogue; or the first scene can serve the same purpose.
Balance the forces in the set-up against each other such that any motion is in a single direction
at a constant speed.
Dramatic and Matched Potential
Establish the major dramatic and matched potential that will be used in
the story; sufficient for
the reader/viewer to understand the later action.
Establish all of the major threads of the story, limiting description to the dramatic potential operable in the
story. If it's described, make sure to
use it later. This is particularly critical in the beginning to convince
the reader/viewer that everything on the page/screen drives what will happen in the story (or it
will be ignored).
Maximum Dramatic Potential
Maximize dramatic potential, setting character traits, desirable possessions, special powers,
etc., at extremes where possible. This sets heightens anticipation in the mind of the
reader/viewer, creates more energy for the story to draw on, and provides for more exciting story
options for releasing the dramatic
Use the combination of dramatic and
matched potential to create
anticipation as to what the launch is likely to be (surprises always possible and desirable). A
launch that will "change everything that can be changed" should be obvious, at least to the
subconscious, because everything in the set-up should be selected to be changed by the launch. If
the launch does not succeed in changing everything that can be changed about the universe of the
set-up, the character and situational forces should be altered in such a way that this upheaval is
possible and even inevitable.
The attention of the reader/audience must be maintained. A set-up that gets the job done quickly
tends to be "better" than a longer one in terms of grabbing and keeping interest. Longer set-ups
can work, e.g., THE GODFATHER, but only if the writing is brilliant and clearly headed
Maintain surprise--or build suspense, tension, and anticipation--by saving the description of
certain forces of the set-up until after the launch. Include these surprise/suspense elements when
outlining the set-up, but shift them to later in the actual telling of your story.