Wow! What a weekend … My computer crashed, so I spent the majority of the weekend just trying to get everything back up and running. This post is proof that I’ve managed a small level of success in that department.
However, in spite of all the chaosery, I did manage to get a couple of writing related tasks accomplished.
1) I met with my online critique group Sunday morning to finish up the two part crit of my WIP. The group has been so helpful (you rock the block LB & Julie), and I’m raring to run through the manuscript again with fresh ideas.
2) I met with my ‘live’ critique group Sunday afternoon to discuss chapters 8 & 9 of the aforementioned WIP. During this meeting we got on the subject of the three act story structure. It proved to be a nice refresher, so I thought I’d make it today’s topic.
I always plan a story around the idea of the three act structure, but sometimes it gets lost a bit in the drafting. The idea behind this structure is to provide a simple (yet time tested) approach to telling a story. It’s as basic as it sounds: each story can be viewed in three major sections (beginning, middle, and end) with each section serving some purpose. For the sake of review, I’ll offer the highlights of the concept:
ACT 1: THE DIRTY
The first act would be used to establish the foundation details of the story such as setting, cast, and plot. The events, problems, and/or goals that set the main character into motion would also be introduced.
POOP + FAN MOMENT (PFM) #1: The first act typically ends with the main character (mc) encountering a significant story related problem/conflict/twist/revelation that sends the story into the second act.
ACT 2: THE MEAT & POTATOS
The second act of the story is used to show how the event or problem introduced in Act 1 unfolds as it relates to the setting, cast, etc. This is the hero’s journey, and the place where the bulk of the story telling takes place.
POOP + FAN MOMENT #2: The second act typically ends with a major complication or a rising of the stakes in the mc’s quest. In short, it’s something that will propel the story into the climax/final act.
ACT 3: THE WRAP UP
The final act serves as a resolution to the problems introduced in the first act as well as any other issues that might have cropped up during the second act.
Let’s use the familiar children’s story of Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH) as an example:
Act 1: LRRH’s grandmother has taken ill (the problem), so she decides to take her some food (goal). Unfortunately, Gran lives outside of the village, so LRRH is going to have to travel through the dangerous woods to help her.
PFM #1: Shortly after leaving the village LRRH encounters the wolf. Wolfy doesn’t attack right away (let’s save that!) for fear of getting caught by the villagers and hunters. He decides to stall LRRH by suggesting she pick some flowers for Gran. He then proceeds to try to make it to Gran’s before LRRH. (Where he can presumably bushwhack her in private.)
Act 2: LRRH finally makes it to Gran’s, but finds that grandma has taken a turn for the worse: apparently grandma has sprouted fur, fangs, and taken on a bad case of fleas. Alas! It turns out that it’s actually the wolf dressed as grandma and he has eaten her alive! (Hey, this isn’t the watered down version you tell your kids.)
PFM #2: The wolf catches LRRH and eats her too! This cannot end well, right?
Act 3: A hunter finds Wolfy all fat-bellied and sleepy, and then proceeds to cut him open and save Gran & LRRH (guessing wolf bellies aren’t air tight?) Gran gets better, LRRH is saved = happy ever after.
Three act structures are pretty simple, no? Sadly, I’m finding the application to be a bit trickier than the theory, but I really believe it to be a sound way of telling a story. So my question to y’all: Have you used three act structures in your own stories? If so, to what success? If no, can you fit your story into this structure?
As always, happy writing this week and a funny!