Many writers wonder how to use the Three Act Structure in their writing.
The Three Act Structure is one of the most popular writing techniques in the world.
The precise and orderly outline has guided the writing of millions of books, which are still loved and respected today.
It began as a useful tool for screenwriting but writers of all stripes find it excellent for organising the course of a story.
It was Aristotle who first realised that all his favourite stories had points in common, so he was able to sketch out a three act structure that was taken up much later.
This narrative tool has been exploited so much that when it is not used, some people naturally miss it.
Here I explain how to use the Three Act Structure to outline your novel.
It will help you ensure that every scene you write has its own direction. It will also allow you to give proper attention to each point in the story.
Thanks to this article, you will understand how to use this structure but more importantly why it is loved so much.
Keep this article in mind while writing your story outline, it will help you immensely.
How to use the Three Act Structure
The Three Act Structure corresponds to the division of the story into three parts. Each part, called acts, has its own characteristics.
Act 1 is the beginning of the story. It introduces the characters, the main problem and the world in which it takes place.
Act 2 is the part of the book that keeps you on your toes. It is the longest section, here the plot thickens and the problem becomes more and more insurmountable. It gets to the point where all seems lost.
Act 3 happens right after the worst moment for the protagonists. It is usually the part that lasts the least because the characters are cornered at the end of Act 2. They face a crisis that will have to change them so that they can ‘defeat’ the villain or simply the main problem.
In Act 3 the heroes win and come out of the battle with a lesson.
Tips for how to use a Three Act Structure
A classic structure like the Three Act Structure can be a lifesaver when you find yourself overwhelmed by your manuscript.
It can give every single scene its own purpose and clear direction.
In Act 1, as I have already mentioned, you must introduce your protagonist and the main problem.
In this act something must happen that interrupts the normal course of the protagonists life.
An event capable of disrupting the protagonist, something that drags him back to the beginning of the journey.
It must be something that forces the character to leave his old life behind.
Here you have to ask yourself:
- What does the protagonist desire most of all?
- What are his greatest fears?
- What are his strengths and what are his weaknesses?
- What events would force him to face all this?
In Act 1, the protagonist has to decide whether to abandon everything he knows of his own free will or to resist. In case your protagonist refuses to embark on the journey, there must be something else compelling him.
This something can be fate, an accident or simply his strong morals.
Act 2 is the halfway point. At this point the protagonist faces a series of challenges that force him to confront his identity and question himself and the world around him.
In this part, the protagonist prepares for a great challenge, the greatest in the book.
This challenge must have a lot at stake, if lost the protagonist will lose all hope and be forced to face his greatest fears.
This great challenge will not be won and so your protagonist will withdraw from the adventure. He will feel lost and confused as to how to proceed.
At the end of the second act something happens, the protagonist has a realisation, which leads him to return to the fight.
Here you have to ask yourself:
- What does the protagonist need to realise?
- What is it that he has done wrong and how can he improve?
- How will his greatest fears come true?
Act 3 is the final act of the story, in which there is the resolution of the main problem.
Here the protagonist faces the villain of the story for the last time.
Readers often expect the protagonist to win, because well he is the protagonist. In this act you have to go out of your way to question this certainty.
Although readers have seen the growth and changes in the protagonist, here you must remind them that he is not invincible.
Here is the climax, the final scene of the story, the moment everyone is waiting for with bated breath.
Here you have to ask yourself:
- How will the villain inspire even more fear?
- How will the protagonist defeat a character who seems invincible?
- What has the protagonist realised through this journey? How has his life changed?
After the climax full of tension and fear is over, there are the last pages of the story. Here you have to give the reader a sense of closure.
Everything you promised him at the beginning must be closed and resolved here.
Every minor problem and simple sentence. The reader likes to have a sense of continuity, like in real life.
So it is important that you do not forget anything at the end of the story.
Here in theory there is a happy ending, where everyone lives happily ever after.
Why writers love to use a Three Act Structure
As I mentioned earlier in the article, writers love to use the three act structure because of the sense of order it gives both the writer and the reader.
The reader feels pampered, safe in these narrative stakes that accompany him from beginning to end.
The writer the same. The three act structure allows him to build a map that will tell him exactly how much time and pages to devote to each stage of the story.
This structure is obviously not mandatory.
You can easily write a masterpiece without even touching it.
But it must be said that it is so well integrated into the overall storytelling that even with effort it is difficult to avoid.
After all, all stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.
Choose what you feel is most suitable for the idea you have in mind and remember to experiment, because that is how you learn.
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