1. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Third Act Bores Me

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by HorusEye, Oct 13, 2009.

    In general.

    First Act is full of hopes and uncertainty and the great suspense in knowing that everything is about to change forever.

    Second Act puts everything on end, foils the plans, crushes the hopes... For a moment it may even make you regret going on the journey. But then things turn, the sky clears and you come to discover a truth and a stronger hope, and they lead you to:

    Third Act. Yawn. Everything seems simple, all of the sudden. There's only the final showdown left, and we all know how that's gonna end. So third act is stuffed with high-speed action in order to keep the audience from dosing off. But I'm really just waiting for THE END.

    This is how I end up feeling when I watch many movies and read many books. Except for those that totally violate classic progression of fiction. I'm trying to break out of this, with my own story, but it's hard. It's engrained, somehow, and inevitable, that at some point sooner or later, all the questions have to be answered and the ending must seem naturally ahead. I just think its boring. Even the greatest of adventures momentarily lose me at this point. The car-chase part serves best for a toilet-break. Even 'Return of the King' put me to sleep with all those endless battles.

    Do you feel the same? Or do you actually think the third act of, say, Indiana Jones is the most interesting part of the movie? Just taking a well-known example here. Feel free to substitute it.
     
  2. thecommabandit
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    thecommabandit Member

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    If you're having trouble holding your own attention, how are the readers going to still be interested? The final act should be full of confrontations which are ramping up to the final showdown. It sounds like you're writing an adventure story so there should be a sense of urgency which will increase the tension. If you can cultivate that maybe it will solve your problem.
     
  3. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm just not sure if urgency does anything for me, as part of an audience myself. I've watched countless movies that apply variations of the countdown clock attached to a truck of dynamite, and it always leaves me cold. I'm wondering if it's just me... Do others find that stuff exciting?
     
  4. AmandaC
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    AmandaC Member

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    So think about the rule breakers. The Mist by Stephen King (the movie at least) doesn't tie up all neat in the end. It leaves you in a horrifying place. There are a lot of stories like this that just kind of end and leave it to your imagination as far as what might happen. To me those are the kind of endings I really remember.
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Third acts that work for me, reveal answers to questions I've wanted to know since the beginning or the middle. If it reveals a secret, that is great. Seven Pounds comes to mind. The third act was the best act.

    I think in a Woody Allen film, a Character said something like, "Your movie can be okay or even boring for most of the movie, but if you wow them at the end, they will forever remember your movie. If your film kicks ass, but the end fails, they will easily forget it."
     
  6. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Same here. . . Couldn't have said it better myself.

    I agree that the end is usually boring if you know what's going to happen. That's why I often tend to tune out at the end of a movie or a predictable book.

    A great third act is one that catches me off guard. The last half of A Game of Thrones was surprising enough to hook me for the entire series. Very few fantasy novels surprise me any more, so I was getting rather bored with the genre until I read that book.

    I also have to agree with you on the chase scenes, btw. . . It's like watching a 5-10 minute commercial break in a movie you payed to see. But I think we're in the minority on that one.

    Still, I think it's somewhat of a cheap trick to insert that kind of pseudo-tension in a book. There are so many more interesting ways a novelist can get your pulse racing. Create real tension.

    I have an intense dislike for novels that play out like stereotypical action films. May as well just write a screenplay.
     
  7. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Stories usually send pretty clear signals of whether they're a comedy or tragedy (in Greek terms of the words). I've been playing with the idea of giving mixed signals...even clear indicators of both, so as to sway the reader between thinking it's gonna end well or in hell. Not sure if it's gonna work though.

    I'm just thinking that uncertainty about the outcome would be more interesting than hectic action where you can predict who wins. The latter is kinda like watching a sports-match after you have been told who the winning team is.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    while i do have to think about and deal with 'acts' while writing screenplays and when mentoring aspiring screenwriters, i don't when viewing movies... i simply enjoy them, or don't... if one holds my interest from the opening scene to the closing one, then i've enjoyed it... if it doesn't, since i'm not a reviewer, i don't analyze why, in re whether its a failure of the third act, or not...

    as for books, they don't really follow a 3-act structure as rigidly as movies do, thus can ramble and wander hither, thither and yon, as long as the writing and storyline are good enough to make me want to keep reading... and short stories are even less bound to any 'act' structure...
     
  9. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    True.
    That's one way to do it.

    Another way is to keep all characters realistic and interesting. It's very possible to generate a conflict where anyone could 'win', and still have a satisfying ending. If you can get the reader rooting for multiple characters on opposite sides of a conflict, then anything can happen. Everything is in question.
    Yeah. . . but in that case, it's about the journey, not the ending. Or the action, I suppose.

    I like to come up with stories where I, as the writer, don't know how they end. If I don't know, the reader can only guess.
     
  10. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very good point!
     
  11. Sillraaia
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    Sillraaia Senior Member

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    yes, I like those two points. 1, get the reader rooting for both sides, and 2, have it so not even the writer knows what will happen. If I, as the writer, am torn about which way I want the story to go, then the reader should feel that too. It could go either way, because no-one sees themselves as evil. Even the bad guys have a good side, and a reason for doing things the way they do.
    The book I am writing is doing just that, actually - for most of the story, I have had the reader (and myself) cheering for one side, but it is only towards the end that we learn the other side of the story, and now wonder who is going to come out on top, because (I just realized), it could really go either way. I need to think about which way I want it to go now! hehe, thanks.
     

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