Plot & Structure Part 3

Let’s look at one of the most common ways to structure a story; The Three Act Structure or Division. Most of us have, at some point, heard of dividing our narratives into 3 parts, the beginning, the middle, and the end.

Act 1, The Beginning:

   This includes your opening scene, which is arguably one of the most critical scenes you will write because it consists of the juicy hat bait that lures the reader in and convinces them to stay along for the whole meal.

   Aside from the opening scene, the beginning is also where you give the reader a glimpse of the status quo a slice of ordinary life for your characters and an overview of the central conflict. Many writers also foreshadow the ending of their novel in act 1.

Act 2, The middle:

   This is where most authors get stuck, (which is why I recommend having a basic outline for your story. If you know where the character is headed or what needs to happen to carry them to the end the middle will be less daunting). The center is usually the most important section of your story. Here you want to keep the momentum of the beginning going with increased complications, rising stakes, and rising action bringing everything to a boil in the climax.

   The second act is where you will show the bulk of your characters journey, arc, as well as story development. It’s where you dangle victory like a carrot having your protagonist reach for it and almost grasping it just to pull it away – the first culmination. The protagonist failure could lead to a dark moment an internal struggle that the protagonist needs to overcome, which leads to the protagonist’s last stand, plot point two.

Act 3, The End:

Act 3 is typically the shortest of the acts. It includes the denouement or cooldown as I like to call it. This is where you bring the reader down from the high of the climax; the tension should be over and done with at this point. Act 3 also included the wrap-up – tying up any remaining loose ends and answering any lingering questions. This is also where you want to show the final consequences or effects of the decisions made during the climax. The consequences or effects become the new status quo. An epilogue, if you choose to write one, would also be included in act 3.

   On a side note, do not rush the ending take the time you need to finish it on a strong, satisfying note. If you are writing a series, sequel or trilogy it is more than okay purposefully leave some questions unanswered at the end of book one to continue and bring readers back for book two and three and so on. That being said if you are writing a stand-alone it is also acceptable to leave some speculation about the characters’ future, in other words, you don’t have to end the story with a long history lesson about the rest of the characters life.

Till next time, live your happiest life.

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