​The Jungle Book and its Plot Structure Part 01: The Three Act Structure

Okay, so this is my first time writing a writing tips post. After reading a lot of posts about plot structure, I finally comprehended how it works, whether it’s the traditional three act structure, or Michael Hauge’s famous Six Stage Structure, or the Eight Sequence Structure used for screenwriting (and maybe in novel writing too). And as experiment, this will be my first time applying those structures on one of 2016’s critically acclaimed movies, The Jungle Book. 

I’ve watched the movie three times on TV, first time to enjoy it as a movie, and the other two times to divide it into these structures. I may be wrong in the dividing parts. If I am, let me know in the comments section and I’ll take notes. 

First up, the traditional three act structure:

Act 01: Inciting Incident and First Plot Point:

Act one usually shows us the protagonist’s life in normal and how, though they are happy, something is lacking in their lives. Then the inciting incident occurs and everything changes. Act one ends with the protagonist going on a journey (physically or emotionally) to a new place. Usually act one ends on 25% in novels and in 30 minutes marking in the movies/screenplays.

Example: In The Jungle Book, the protagonist, Mowgli’s life with the wolves is shown. He competes with them in a race and loses because he isn’t permitted to use his “human” tricks. Then the peace rock shows up and again he uses “human” trick to get water for himself, only to get scolded by the wolf pack leader, Akela, that the jungle isn’t a place for these tricks. 

Then the inciting incident occurs. Shere Khan arrives and catches Mowgli with the wolves. Because of the peace rock, he threatens to kill Mowgli afterwards along with the wolves if they don’t hand him over. So the wolves argue, making Mowgli decide to leave the jungle with Bagheera and go live with the humans. 

Act 02: Incidents Centering the Midpoint:

In this part, the largest of the three, the journey is shown in the protagonist’s life. They go through multiple setbacks and obstacles to finally mould into the person they need to be to overcome their obstacles and reach their goals. 

In Mowgli’s case, it was his identity. He identifies himself as a wolf but feels like a parish due to his “human” tricks. This part also brings midpoint reversal, where the protagonist gets a glimpse of who he really is, according to James Scott Bell. 

In Mowgli’s case, it occurred after meeting Baloo and finding opportunities and encouragements he needed to exercise and expand his “human” tricks. 

In act two, another important incident occurs called the Dark Night of the Soul. In this part, the protagonist has lost all hopes and must find a way, insane or not, to get to his goal. In Mowgli’s case, it was finding out that Akela died because of him and now the wolves’ lives are endangered only for him. Even if he leaves the jungle and lives with the humans, Shere Khan won’t leave the wolves alone. So he runs to the human’s village and decides to use the red flower to scare away Shere Khan. Only to find himself with no allies and setting part of the jungle on fire. So he now journeys to…

Act 03: The Climax and Resolution:

In this part, the protagonist, with his allies and his newly achieved skills/plans, faces the antagonist/antagonistic force. When a battleground, the allies first face off with the antagonist/antagonistic force or its allies. Battle ensues before the main antagonist and the protagonist face off. 

After the battle, mostly the protagonist wins and the life he has afterwards for growing into the person he needed to be is shown. 

In Mowgli’s case, to show everyone he isn’t like other humans, he put the fire off. His allies trust in him and they face Shere Khan. This is where Bagheera advises Mowgli, like a true mentor, to fight Shere Khan like a human, not as a wolf. Mowgli runs to the aflamed part of the jungle and devices a plan to defeat Shere Khan. Foolishly, Shere Khan walks into the red flower trap and dies. 

In the resolution, Mowgli is using his tricks successfully to win race against both Bagheera and the wolves. Raksha is crowned the leader of the pack and Mowgli is living happily with everyone. 

In the next post  I’ll show how the same movie is divided into Michael Hauge’s Six Stages Structure, as well as the Eight Sequence Structure in screenwriting. 


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