1. LBD
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    LBD New Member

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    Do you use the so-called three arc structure?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by LBD, Sep 11, 2010.

    Hello everyone,

    I came across this article on the use of the three act structure and I was wondering if you use it? I find it hard to define the "plot points". What is the difference with an enticing incident?

    Feedback on this topic would be much appreciated :)
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nope lol my world doesn't truly get introduced until good way through the book. My ending also doesn't have a true resolution beyond you are all still in danger.

    I also tend to start my fantasy stories with the first conflict and continue in that vein. My books seem to be Act 2 with Acts 1&3 spread throughout the story.
     
  3. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, generally not, neither as a tool when working and neither do my works as a finished product have an three arch structure.

    Worth mentioning is that loads of works use arc structure but with any other numbers or arches to. A movie or an tv episode planned for 4 commercial brakes will often have 5 distinct arches etc. Ancient Roman and Greek dramas often also had 5 arces too. I you analyse movies and book you can often find a variety in the number of arches they can be analysed into.

    Thinking and working in arches can be a useful tool, if you like that kind of structured thinking.
     
  4. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, I'm not using it, at least not consciously.
     
  5. litchickuk
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    litchickuk Member

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    I dont think I write with this consciously in my mind but in the end I find that it does come out - albeit in an overly generalised way - in the 3 stages of beginning, middle and end, or 3 acts. I think that you could apply it to most novels if you set out to. Maybe not so much with short stories.
    Its good to chunk your writing up when working as it makes it seem less long, less arduous, less formiddable but its whether you blur these joins well or not that determines whether the three-act system shows or not.
     
  6. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, that definition was pretty vague and all-encompassing... It's kinda hard to wiggle out of it when you have to accept that generally you start a story, stuff happens in it, and then it finishes.
     
  7. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I always tend to follow the three act pattern in most of my writings as a habit even though I don't set out to do that when I write. My mother used to tell us lots of stories, and now I tell many stories to my nephews and nieces which follow that pattern, so I think it kind of stuck within me. Even the flash fiction I wrote recently follows the three act lol... and realized it's hard to do that in 500 words.
     
  8. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep, I'm all for having a clear beginning, middle and end :)
    This seems a good basic guide to structure, and following it can make your work much more concise and coherent. I worked out a similar format for myself a while back--best thing I ever did.
     
  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Agreed -- I've always found those "how to plot a novel" articles to be super vague and unhelpful...I mean, basically it tells you that you need a beginning, middle and end, with a climax and some plot twists....No, really? I never knew that..... haha :)

    To answer the question, though, I guess my story has two main "parts" (you know, when there's a Part 1/Part 2) because there's a point where the antag's roles and motivations change drastically. They're still the antags, but some issues rise up that change the scheme of things. Each "Part" follows the 3-act setup. (I haven't written all this yet, I'm only on Ch 4 in part one and am heavily revising, so it's more like Ch 2.)
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I avoid "systems" for writing and try to stick to fundamentals. The basic unit of a story is plot, not to be confused with storyline. A story contains one or more plots. Typically one plot is central, and the others contribute either directly or by influencing the development of the characters who drive the plots.

    Please read What is Plot Creation and Development?
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Cog on this. I don't bother thinking in terms of three-act structure. It seems to be something that film theorists like to talk about, but its usefulness is questionable.

    Generally, the more elaborate a theory, the more exceptions there are to it, and the more exceptions there are, the less useful the theory.

    Three-act structure has been elaborated on endlessly by people like Syd Field and Robert McKee. By now, they've probably made it entirely useless, or at least ignorable.

    Shakespeare wrote five-act plays.

    Three-act structure only seems to be discussed in the context of films. I've never heard of it being explicitly used as a template for short stories or novels.
     
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^ That's good advice, Cog.
    But dropping your ideas into a decent arc of intro, development, resolution is useful for many writers--in particular, it helps with pace and prevents the plot losing focus.
    It may seem obvious that a story develops like this, since it is the traditional pattern, but people get so involved with their imaginary worlds etc they can really lose sight of the need to give the work a clear shape.
     
  13. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    When I write, I do try to keep the three-act structure in mind. It helps me add more things into my story where my ordinary writing would wander or flop. Almost in a way how a schedule keeps you on time and conscious of your days ahead.

    Plot points are instances in a story where the action gets switched around or amped up. They could be more obstacles your MC has to overcome or they could be a number of things that would change the perspective of your story.

    The inciting incident is the point towards the beginning of your story that sets the whole plot into motion. It is the catalyst.

    I hope this post helps you. PM me if you need more info or help.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's the industry standard for screenplays... there is none for novels, so a 'three-act' structure would be just one 'formula' some writers may follow...

    but i'm with cog on the wisdom of not using any in writing fiction...
     
  15. polarboy
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    polarboy Member

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    With the adventure writing I've done, I have followed the three-act structure in a loose sense.

    ACT I establishes normalacy within the sf setting. The characters have a sense of how things will proceed--until a conflict arises (or is revealed) and interferes with those expectations.

    ACT II builds as the characters face challenges and move forward toward the central conflict (which may be different from what they expected) at the CLIMAX.

    ACT III forces the characters to deal with the wake of the second act; there may be additional mopping up to do or ongoing troubles based on the way the climax ressolved.

    Even though I use the three-act structure, I bend it based on the needs of the storyline. In one manuscript, the first act was very long and included conflicts peripherally connected to the climax. In another manuscript, the third act was potentially long and even introduced a new threat following the central conflict. Using the structure still allows for flexibility.
     
  16. LBD
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    LBD New Member

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    Thank you for the replies!

    I think it will be best for me not to focus on the technical aspects too much and just write, write, write :) But keeping it in the back of my head though, just to not loose sight of the way the plot moves along and stuff.
     
  17. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perhaps the short time available in a film requires the screenwriter to be more strict about how to use it? The characters and background need to be introduced early, or there will not be enough time to focus on the main conflict, for example.

    I'm just speculating.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's coming pretty close, actually...

    for those who're interested in writing for the silver screen, syd field's 'workbook' how-to is the best you'll find on how to structure a script, plus how to develop an idea into a plot/storyline and come up with believable characters...
     
  19. polarboy
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    polarboy Member

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    I think that is the way to go.

    Here's something more that I'll add. When I say that my adventure writing so far has loosely followed the three-act structure, it's not because I sit down and originally outline a rigid plot. The storyline shifts and grows through the writing. The end result might fit the three-act structure, but that result grows out of the writing--not something I forcefully impose.

    As an aside, there are plenty of excellent and oft-cited works of fiction that don't follow that three-act structure. One of my favorite plays, Hedda Gabler, essentially ends at the climax. There really is no third act (in the three-act model).
     

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