1. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    The Three Act Method

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Reggie, Nov 24, 2010.

    Has anyone ever thought about writing their books in the three act structure? If so, tell me your experience of doing that. Is it really necessary to write a three act scene for a book? Websites I searched suggests that I should do that instead of writing them chapter by chapter.

    If I’m not mistaking the three act story, I believe that the first act starts with the setting of the story. Here is a brief summary of my story’s settings if I were to write it in the three act format.

    ACT 1

    I think Act 1 would start out where Jason, the narrator and main character of the story lived a rough life in California, so he seeks advices from his friends to find peace, but the advices did not seem to work, so he kept encountering problems, so his brother, who died not too long ago decides to help him

    ACT 2

    Does Act 2 begin when he discovers that he has divine powers? At that time, after the main character discovered it, he started using it and showed them off to his friends. Thus, his friends did not want to deal with him anymore. As a result, he got fired from his job, and worse of all, his girlfriend broke up with him. His dead brother appeared to him and tried to convince him that he did not have powers, but the main character argued with him and barged off. His friends later seek forgiveness from the main character after they lost customers for their business, which almost shut down, until the main character forgave them. So now, the business came back to life.

    ACT 3

    I’m not sure what act 3 is, but I’m assuming that it has something to do with the revolution or climax of the story, where Steve, the next-door neighbor took the house away, and then he had to appeal in court for falsely telling his boss that she never paid her property taxes at his job. Mysteriously, the judge decides to release him from prison. After Steve’s release, the Main character later won his girlfriend’s heart back. Then, his dead brother revealed to him that he is dead, and he was posed as the main character’s his guardian angel.

    I just wanted to know if that’s how to structure a 3-act scene.
    I really enjoy learning how to do that, but I’m still not sure if it is really necessary for a book or novel, and I thought it was only used for plays and movies.
     
  2. Newfable
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    Newfable Senior Member

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    I honestly haven't heard about the 3-Act structure to writing before, but I imagine it'd be something like this:
    • Act 1: Introduction to characters, plot, problem, conflict, stakes, etc.
    • Act 2: Beginning of conflict; sub-plots are carried out; characters begin to grow and develop; major themes of the work are introduced; possibly ends with cliffhanger to Act 3, introducing climax.
    • Act 3: Major climax and resolution development; character either changes or doesn't; catharsis.
    If that's the case, I'd imagine you're right on track. You might think of taking some of the beginning back to Act 2, and doing what you can to not end Act 2 cleanly. The best way to keep the reader reading is to present compelling questions to them; Act 2 may seem too tidy to a reader and, in some few cases, could be seen as the end of the story.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have previously put acts 1&2 together and acts 2&3 together.

    However I am considering using it for my current project when I rewrite to give structure to a complicated plot.
     
  4. Klogg
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    Klogg Member

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    The way you describe seems a good 3 act structure. It sounds as if you have a very promising storyline as well. The only thing I may suggest is to put the scene of him discovering he has some sort of powers at the end of act 1, sort of a cliffhanger. Even if the story continues on the next page in Act 2, you cannot neglect the effect a good cliffhanger can have.
     
  5. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    The issue I find with this is that the 3-act structure is more specific to feature film screenplays than novel writing. Using the same method could result in a novel that reads like a film, and becomes rather formulaic and uninspiring. Many crime novels suffer this after attempting to read like a film noir, but the two just don't combine well in my opinion.

    Novels work in chapters and not acts for a reason; different media requires different methods. I'd advise against this, but as the writer, it's for you to decide.
     
  6. Newfable
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    Newfable Senior Member

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    That's all highly dependant on how the author wants to structure the story. Leviathan had only a few chapters in it because of how it was structured to fit the story. A Clockwork Orange had 21 chapters split into 3 parts to better fit its themes. Nineteen Eighty-Four is split into three parts to better serve the basic story structure, but to also play off of the number 3 and the transformative process.

    It's all dependant on how the author wants to structure the story.
     
  7. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    True, but those are rare examples from novels with particularly high acclaim. I'd wager those were some very skilled writers with talents distinctive enough to pull it off, and that's why that worked so well. The structure might play an interesting part in these novels, but without all the other ingredients, it would've been wasted.

    For a beginner, I wouldn't advise they focus so much on methods like this; not unless it served some truly profound purpose and they had reason to believe it'd make the story better that way, let alone whether their writing is of a decent enough standard to avoid the issues I mentioned earlier.
     

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