Okay, today’s post is going to focus on The Three Act Structure and why it’s great for everyone, especially newbies.
Reason One – It’s Simple!
The Three Act Structure is probably the simplest way of plotting a story. There are other ways to plot stories but sometimes the different methods can get a little complicated.
Every story has a beginning, middle and end and it doesn’t take a scientist to work out that each of the three acts corresponds to one of these parts in the story.
Act One is the beginning of the story, the place where we meet our hero; an introduction. The technical term for this is stasis. Stasis means a period of inactivity or equilibrium. Our hero is inactive, going about his business as he usually would until he is called into action when a triggering event happens. Basically, act one is setting the story up for the action that follows in acts two and three.
Act Two is the middle of the story, the quest, the action of the story. Our hero crosses the threshold and sets off on his quest. Sometimes, this is called the confrontation part of the story.
Act Three is the resolution, that is, all the consequences that follow the action of act two. The hero is now in a new world and must learn how to live in it.
So, in basic terms:
Act One is the beginning: The hero deciding to act on a goal.
Act Two is the middle: The hero takes action.
Act Three is the end: The hero must face up to the consequences of that action.
Or, even more simply put;
Act One: The hero decides to act.
Act Two: The action itself.
Act Three: The consequences of that action.
Reason Two: It’s a great guide especially for newbies!
The three-act structure can be broken down further, like this:
Stage One – The set up
Stage Two – New Situation
Stage Three – Progress
Stage Four – Complications and Higher Stakes
Stage Five – Final Push
Stage Six – The Aftermath
You don’t need to break your story down into these extra sections if you don’t want to, but if you’re struggling to find ideas for what to write next you could use this as a guide.
For example, in act two we need the hero to make some progress but he can’t get everything his own way. There have to be obstacles in his path which gradually become harder to overcome. There are highs and lows but by the end of act two things should be more intense. Even though our hero has made good progress there will be complications and higher stakes so, by the end of act two, the hero should be at his lowest point.
The three-act structure can keep your story on track.
Reason Three: It’s Flexible!
Because it’s so simple, it’s very flexible. It can be used as a guide for many different mediums. Want to write a screenplay? You can use the three-act structure. Want to write a novel but don’t know where to start? Use the three-act structure.
Reason Four: It’s a great place to start!
Because it’s so simple and flexible, it’s a great place to start learning how to structure a story. There are other ways of structuring but one can often become lost when researching these because they have so many different parts to understand. These days the three-act structure is often seen as a stifling way to write a story, that it’s old fashioned and boring.
I disagree. Once you get to grips with the three-act structure it makes it easier to understand the other forms of plotting. The three-act structure is a good starting point, a great springboard into discovering new ways of structuring. It’s one more tool in the writer’s toolkit.
Reason Five: It helps manage the unmanageable!
You’re new to this writing malarkey, right? You want to write a novel and you have all these ideas swimming around but you don’t know where to start plotting, so you don’t. It’s too much. It’s too overwhelming.
Well, the three-act structure is perfect for you. As I said above, the three-act structure is so easy and flexible it will allow you to tame the beast, so to speak. As a newbie, you can become very overwhelmed with the idea of plotting. Like, where tf do I actually begin? Where does this section go? Okay, so my hero’s been called to action, what next?
The three-act structure allows you to give your thoughts some cohesion, some structure, As I said, it allows you to manage the unmanageable.
It won’t be easy. Writing a novel can be scary and overwhelming. Do it anyway. Use the three-act structure to begin your own adventure.