1. thelark5
    Offline

    thelark5 New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2010
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0

    Books on the 3 act structure and other plot structures?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by thelark5, Oct 21, 2010.

    Hello,


    I have been looking books that explain plot structure; and in particular, I'm looking for books that explain the 3 act structure. I know of a few books like Robert Mckee's book, as well as the book titled "Plot & Structure", but I did not like either one of those books. I am looking for a book that enumerates the plots that derive from the 3 act structure (Such as Genre fiction, Hero's Journey, Coming of Age, etc.) Victoria Schmidt's book "Story Structure Architect:..." comes close, but it isn't written well and is too rigid. All the books I've read (outside of Nancy Lamb's book, which is great btw), attempt to sell you some secret plot formula to adhere to that will help you write your plot, however, those don't do it for me. I want to learn exactly how these other plots differentiate from the 3 act structure, and I want to know exactly how the 3 act structure is supposed to work. I have an idea of how it works from some research on it, but I would like to further my knowledge on the subject.

    Can anyone recommend me some books that might help?

    Lark
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
    Offline

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,792
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    UK
    I haven't read much of it yet, but The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker looks like such an enormous tome it must mention it somewhere along the way. :p

    And, you know, can be extremely helpful for other reasons.
     
  3. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    Beginning, middle, end.

    If I were you I wouldn't be so concerned with "correct" structures, because there really is none except the one I mentioned here above. Hollywood blockbusters follow their own template on the minute-count, and it makes for stale, predictable chewing-gum entertainment.

    Consider structure when your story doesn't work...at all other times, write with your soul.
     
  4. w176
    Offline

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Luleå, Sweden
    ... I'm staring to feel like Cognito but i will give this advice once more.

    "Impro. Improvisation for the theater"
    by Keith Johnstone is in my view a fantsatic book to all writers that want to understand stories, scenes and characters. If you already read a lot of book on how to plan a story I believe that learning how to not plan a story is an extremely important insight. Learning how to be present in the story Now, be there, be attentive and work and build story all the time working with the present. Improvising.The books offer lot of examples, theory and discussion on how everything from status to dialog blocking and accepting to making different kinds of scenes work

    If you both know how to plan and how to improvise you will have two strong approaches instead of just one on how to deal with your story and your scenes. Many timed when people go looking for more and more planning methods its because they don't know how to improvise and try to get around it, rather then handling the problem and learning how to improvise.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. thelark5
    Offline

    thelark5 New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2010
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    Interesting advice from you all. I don't say I agree, though. Many writers make that same mistake thinking that it is all guts and emotion, yet without structure and a simple understanding of plot, they get lost. Thanks for you all's advice, though.
     
  6. w176
    Offline

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Luleå, Sweden
    Yea. I meant when a writer already have a good knowledge on structure, have read articels and books about it, and still feels distress because for some reason they have problem to get their story to run smoothly. That might very well be because they have not a problem with their planning but with their ability to improvise. In that case, more planning isn't the most simple cure.

    Here you seemed to have a good knowledge on structure already, and then I think turning to study improvisation is an important advice to give, because in many cases it helps.

    A deeper knowledge on how improvisation works also deepens you knowledge on how planning works.

    But you right. Many are naive and believe that they can make a good story without neither much practice at improvising stories or planning stories. Improvisation is a skill need to be learned and practiced, not a beginners fumbling vague gut feeling.
     
  7. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,722
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    If you have a story, you have a structure. It might not break easily into three acts, but if it doesn't, who cares? Shakespeare used five acts usually.

    Most stories begin with a character facing a problem and end with the solution (or not) of the problem. Either the character solves the problem or he is defeated by it, or it somehow becomes a non-problem. If tension increases along the way, so much the better. You really don't need anything else. You could say that Act One establishes the status quo and confronts the hero with the problem, Act Two (most of the story) involves the hero working to solve the problem and having some ups and downs along the way, and Act Three involves the hero finally solving the problem (or not) and the denouement. But those labels are just conveniences, so that literature teachers can talk about the story. They aren't rules the writer is required to follow.

    I've read many books on writing, and very few even bother mentioning three-act structure. McKee's book goes into it in detail, but it's for screenwriters and is, frankly, infuriating to read if you want to write good fiction. Probably, the more a book focuses on three-act structure, the more it falls into the "write-a-novel-in-ten-easy-steps" category - lowbrow, paint-by-numbers stuff.
     
  8. thelark5
    Offline

    thelark5 New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2010
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    In that case, I definitely agree with what you had previously said. I am looking for a deeper understanding of structure. I want to learn as much about the craft as I can. I think really good writers follow structure so well that they can conjure up stories and not have much problem with getting them down or being hampered by writer's block. Of course this also means that they break the rules because they have the knowledge of what the story truly needs. The more I've educated myself on writing, the better I've become over the years at writing (and I don't judge this at all on structure. But that is my current interest).
     
  9. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I'm not sold on the three act structure. It's a bit too limiting for novels, and strikes me as arbitrary. Granted, threes are a valuable organizing principle for many things: TV scripts are constrained to time slots and commercial breaks, so the tripart structure works well there. Also, the three-point structure for essays is optimal for organizing an argument into a set that is easily remembered and persuasive. However, those arguments don't convince me that a novel should tie itself down in that way.

    I prefer to focus on the dynamics of plot networks, using the strict defininition of plot as a 4-tuple of actor, goal or objective, motivation, and opposition. Plots can thereby be visualized like a force vector diagram, and the various plots within a storyline interact to drive the events of the story.

    Perhaps that reflects my background in the physical sciences, but it works for me.
     
  10. w176
    Offline

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Luleå, Sweden
    Actually TV-shows is scripted into a number of arches by the number of commercial brakes the country of origin allows.

    If I remember the numbers correctly most american TV-shows have a distinct 5 act structure fitted to 4 commercial brakes, with gets really strange when they run in a country just allowing 3 commercial brakes an hour, or some other number not fitting the production numbers of brakes. The result is that they split the show into story segments that just don't feels natural.
     

Share This Page