The 3-Act Structure: Introduction

“You can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.”
― Gordon B. Hinckley

Planning a novel is the most important aspect of creating one. Even if you’re a pantster, at some or the other point, you’ll realise the need to arrange the novel in an order which will ensure that the novel is structured properly.

Organising everything from the starting comes as a second nature to planners, like me, but it becomes a headache for pantsters and the writers/authors who are new to the craft and find it a little overwhelming at times to keep a track of the basic plot line of their novel while actually writing it.

[If you are suffering from a writer’s block then here are some of my articles that can help you to find the inspiration to write again: Ten Things That Are Stopping You From Writing, 5 Keys To Write 50K Words In 30 Days and Writing Rituals: All You Need To Know.]

There are many ways in which one can plan a novel. The most basic way to plan your novel is to use the 3-Act Structure. In this post, I’ll be only introducing the 3-Act Structure along with its advantages and uses. But in my next post, I’ll explain all the three acts in detail.

– What is the 3-Act Structure?

The 3-Act Structure is a system of dividing the novel into three broad sections: 25%-50%-25%, where each of the three acts has some specific plot/story moves. Most of the people don’t prefer this structure because of its basic nature. They feel that the 3 acts are a far broader classification that they’d like, but what they fail to understand is that, though this structure is  a comparatively broader classification than the rest, it still encompasses just as many elements as the others and even a few more.

There is so much more to this structure than what most of the people believe it to be, which happens to be: Beginning, middle and end.) Here are the following 3 divisions that everyone follows:

  • Act-1: Beginning
  • Act-2: Middle
  • Act-3: End

But, where all the novels have these three parts, they also have so much more to them in terms of the plot moves. I’ve tried to gather as much information as I could, and following are the three divisions that I’ve created in order to define all the three acts more precisely (I’ll be doing another post to explain all the 3 Acts of the 3-Act Structure in detail.)

  • Act-1: Introductions and Conflict
  • Act-2: Complication and Destruction
  • Act-3: Resolution

And here’s a chart that I created in order to demonstrate how this structure works:

A chart by Heena Rathore P. (All rights reserved.)

– What are the advantages of using the 3-Act Structure?

Using a pre-designed structure to create a novel is always advisable as it helps in laying a strong foundation of your novel. The 3-Act Structure is the most basic structure that can be used to establish the basics of your novel. Some of the various advantages of using this structure are:

  1. It’s quite simple to comprehend and equally easy to apply.
  2. It makes sure that the basics of your novel remains in place and don’t get lost in the entirety of your project.
  3. It helps you to understand the missing pieces from your novel.
  4. It also makes you realise if and when you have unnecessary or extra scenes that you’re trying to incorporate in your novel.
  5. It helps you to organise your novel in much better and clear way.
  6. It helps you to make your novel a better and more polished version of the otherwise messy and haywire one.
  7. And more often than not, especially when you feel like you’ve run out of things/scenes to write, this method will definitely give you a gentle push to write more and will often fill your head with new ideas. (I always divide my novel idea into these 3 acts before I even start writing any scenes as it gives a clarity that makes it easier for me to go ahead and write.)

    Image credit: Pixabay

– When should the 3-Sct Structure be used? Before starting the first draft, in between or at the of the nth draft?

The 3-Act Structure, or any structure for that matter, can be used at any point in your writing journey. But as per my experience, I’ll advise you to use it before you start with the first draft. Now, being a planner it comes to me as a second nature, but to anyone who’s a hardcore plotter this will be difficult and might interfere in the writing process. So, for them, I’ll recommend using this structure not before starting the draft but after finishing one. use it to help you regain your focus when you’re done writing whatever you wanted to. After the draft we all feel a little lost for a while, now, that’s the time this structure could come in really handy.

There are a lot of versions of this particular structure but this one is what I use and recommend to anyone who asks me.

If you want to know the details of this structure then read this: The 3-Act Structure: In Detail.

So, what about you? Have you ever tried the 3-Act Structure in plotting your novel or are you trying to figure out the structure that works best for you? Or is there any other structure that you follow? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences as I love to read your comments.

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16 thoughts on “The 3-Act Structure: Introduction

  1. The 3-act structure is what most readers (and movie goers!) unconsciously expect. It’s the story rhythm we’ve all been hearing or reading since we were babies. Larry Brooks, in his Story Engineering, talks about a 4 Act structure. This is a refined version, so similar in rhythm to the 3 act structure that it also feels natural to readers.

    I know some pantsers think that talking about story structure limits them in their ability to tell a story but ignoring basic structure creates a story full of confusion. What’s more natural than telling a story with a beginning, middle and end?

    Thanks for a great post. Looking forward to the detail!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, Connie. I just checked out Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Sounds like an interesting book. I like the idea of a 4-Act Structure. I’ll definitely read this one… Thanks for mentioning 🙂

      And I agree, story’s basic structure is really important, Plotter or Pantster.
      Thanks a lot for reading. Appreciate it 🙂
      Have a great day!


    1. Hi, Elizabeth. Yes, it works beautifully for flashbacks and even for multiple POVs and even for alternating timeframes… This method always works.
      I’ll be explaining this method in detail in my next week in the coming week. Hope it’ll help clear your doubts.
      Let me know if you try it out.

      Liked by 1 person

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