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 comes as second nature to planners, but it becomes a headache for pantsters and the writers who are new to the craft who find it a little overwhelming at times to keep a track of the basic plotline of their novel while writing it.

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, a modified and evolved version of Aristotle’s way of writing tragedy. In this post, I’ll be introducing the 3-Act Structure along with its benefits and uses. In order to read the 3-Act Structure in detail, please read this: The 3-Act Structure: In Detail


The 3-Act Structure: Introduction

What is the 3-Act Structure?

The 3-Act Structure is a system of dividing a novel into three broad sections: 25%-50%-25%, where each of the three acts has some specific plot or story moves. This is the most basic type of story structure and can be seen or identified in almost any story ever written.

Because of this basic nature of the 3-Act Structure, a lot of writers feel that this structure is too thin to be used for structuring elaborate novels because of having a lengthy and complex middle portion. And I agree with them. But I also feel that for writers who are not into plotting heavily or who are just starting out, this is the best way to get acquainted with the otherwise infinite ocean of story plotting. I used this structure to plot my first novel, Deceived, and it served me well. There is a lot to this structure than meets the eye and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is new to either story plotting or writing itself.

On the surface, this structure is in line with Aristotle’s way of writing, having a beginning, a middle and an ending:

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

But, where all the novels have these three parts, there are also various other components to them in terms of the plot moves. So when the evolved version of Aristotle’s structure of writing tragedy looks like this:

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

Here’s a simple diagram to depict the 3-Act Structure:

1
This image is subject to copyright.

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

Using a pre-designed and a very basic structure to create a novel is always advisable as it helps in laying a strong foundation of your novel. Some of the 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 remain 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 a much better and clear way.
  6. It helps you to make your novel a better and a 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.

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 I would advise to use it after you finish with the first draft. It will help you in understanding the plot holes and give you the much-needed direction in order to proceed with your next draft. If you really want to use this in building up your manuscript then keep adjusting all your drafts as per this structure (or any other structure that you are using) as the end of each draft as it’ll help your story remain in line.

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

If you feel like this is not for you then read about other story structures: The 4-Act-Structure: Introduction


If you are suffering from a writer’s block or are facing difficulty in getting ahead with your story, here are some articles I recommend:

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17 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!

      Like

    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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