Writing

Camp NaNo Talk: 3 Act Structure

Hey Guys,

So you have a shiny idea for camp, its full of wonderful characters and plot twists but lacking… well structure. A popular structure that has worked since Greek plays, is the three act structure; the concept that a storyline has a beginning, middle, and end. You may remember that construct from school?

So what are the three acts?

The three acts are groups of points that make up sections of your storyline, lets have a look!

Act 1:

You guessed it! This is the start of the book, if you look for a percentage, it should be around 25% of your novel and its basically where you get to know the characters, the world, and what’s going on.

There are three plot points that happen within act 1:

The Hook

  • This is what grips the reader
  • Presents questions for the reader
  • Makes the reader want to read on
  • The most important element of Act 1

The Background

  • Introduce your characters
  • How they got to the hook?
  • What is going on with the world?
  • Any laws of the world that must be followed

The Trigger

  • What pushes your protagonist to action?
  • What makes them start doing something?
  • What are the stakes?
  • This is what pushes your story from Act 1, into Act 2

Act 2

Well, we’ve made it to the pesky middle; where majority of work ‘sags’, gets boring, fails. Not you my friend! You have way too many plot twists and turns to get bored in this part! Just remember, this is about 50% of your storyline. This is where everything starts building up for the climax, where stakes are tested, characters fail, hopes are smashed, and where authors get to be really sadistic to their characters- just saying, stab the knife, then twist that baby in every direction it can go!

So lets have a look at the breakdown for Act 2!

The crisis

  • This must be directly consequential of the trigger
  • Your protagonists world has crumbled
  • Everything is going wrong
  • Your protagonist is pushed into a new world

The Ratchet

  • Remember the knife? Twist it now!
  • Carry on twisting that bugger!
  • Your characters are struggling
  • They try. They fail.
  • Everything is against them

The Realisation

  • This is the ta-da! moment
  • Your protagonist works out their character flaw
  • This is where you learn who your character really is
  • Your character is not the same person that started Act 2

Act 3

Well, well, well; you sadistic writer you, we’ve arrived at act 3 with a bloody knife and a broken character; but we have the last 25% to go… and guess what… you’re going to need that knife again. Scratch that- go get a bigger one.

We are at the bit everyone thinks about- the end! One big push and you will get to the end of your story and ta-da! you have a first draft and gotta start thinking about revision! So let’s see what this final push looks like!

The Plan

  • Take the character flaw and work with it
  • Your character has to change here
  • Get them to start trusting their decisions or working well with others
  • Start preparing for the final ‘battle’

Climax

  • This is where the sh*t happens
  • Protagonist and antagonist clash
  • The redeemed character quality (what the character changed to fight the flaw) and make that the way they defeat the antagonist
  • Make the struggle real!
  • Don’t flounce!

Resolution

  • This is what happens after the climax
  • Did someone die? If not- seriously, go kill one of your characters (sadistic smile)
  • How does the character react to this?
  • Psychological damage?
  • Physical damage?
  • Give your characters an ending!

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Congratulations!

You know have one of two things:

  1. An outline to work your story from (aim for roughly three chapters per section)
    3 acts
    9 parts
    27 chapters
  2. A kick ass story… you wrote it… it’s gonna be amazing!

Are you going to be using the three act structure? Let me know in the comments below!

Till next time my friends,

Helen x

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