Using the Three-Act Structure: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan

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Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O’Callaghan

Using a story structure can help you organise your story idea, it can help guide and show you what’s working and what’s not. The three-act structure is one of the most popular story structures used by both writers and screenwriters. It can help clarify the main plot points of your novel and bring your story to a satisfactory conclusion. You don’t always need to start planning before writing using the three-act structure, you can apply it at the end of your writing process or as you go. I have put together some articles and podcasts on the three-act structure that I hope you will find helpful.

  1. How To Plan Your Novel Using The Three-Act Structure – Writer’s Edit (writersedit.com)

While some people like to write organically (letting the story take you in whatever direction feels right), having a detailed outline can help make the novel writing process a lot less daunting and overwhelming. The three-act structure revolves around constantly creating set-ups, conflicts, and resolutions. This structure divides a novel into three acts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. This article uses The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins as a perfect example of the three-act structure. It breaks down the structure, explaining each act and breaking them into blocks. The Hunger Games is used to demonstrate each point.

  1. How to Write Three Act Structure – 2023 – MasterClass

The three-act structure is typical of most forms of modern storytelling. The notion of the three-act storytelling traces back to Aristotle, who theorised on story beats in’ Poetics’. He argued that stories are a chain of cause-and-effect actions with each action inspiring subsequent actions until a story reaches its end. This article from Masterclass explains the elements of the three-act structure, gives examples and explains how to use it in your writing. It tells us that in most three-act stories, about 50% of the actual storytelling occurs in the second act, with just 25% of the story falling in the first act and 25% falling in the final act. The example shared is the original Star Wars film. They break down the film into three acts. Masterclass says the best way to incorporate the three-act structure into your own writing is to map out the key plot elements that should populate each act. Just remember when you are writing a novel that good stories don’t start with templates for act breaks, they start with memorable characters, vivid worldbuilding, and a protagonist whose journey is worth following.

  1. The Three-Act Structure: What It Is and How to Write It, with Examples (scribophile.com)

The three-act structure takes us through the self-discovery and growth of the main characters, from landing in a strange new world (literally or metaphorically) to mastery of it. The three-act structure works because it mimics the shape of the stories we naturally tell each other. Scribophile explains each act of the three-act structure using Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

  1. How do you Write a Story using Three-Act Structure? | Now Novel

The three-act structure is a structure that some writers swear by and others shun. This article discusses the pros and cons of using the three-act structure. The pros include keeping the narrative focus, ensuing cohesion, and shaping and balancing each segment of your story. The cons include that it imposes arbitrary structure, transposes the necessities of theatre unnecessarily, and puts the idea of following a linear or set ‘structure’ about the idea that a story solves a problem according to its own, individual creature needs. The article goes on to share 5 tips for using a three-act structure well, including using it as a loose guide, giving your set up an intriguing, early hook, connecting subplots in your confrontation to main arcs, and keeping rising and falling action intriguing.

  1. The Three-Act Structure: The King of Story Structures (reedsy.com)

In this article from Reedsy, they dissect the three acts and each of their plot points – using three-act structure examples from popular culture to illustrate each point including The Wizard of Oz. The benefit of using the three-act structure is that it will help ensure that every scene starts and ends with a clear purpose. Even if you don’t start outlining your novel with it, if you find yourself stuck by pacing issues, it’s often useful to fit your story into the three-act structure to see why that might be.

  1. Outline Your Novel With the 3-Act Story Structure — Well-Storied.

Story structure is simply a blueprint, mapping out the major beats – or moments of conflict – that give a story shape and a sense of pacing, while still maintaining the flexibility needed for unique storytelling. Each act of the three-act structure is broken down in depth here, complete with examples from The Hunger Games, Pride and Prejudice, and The Fault in our Stars, so that you better understand how to utilise the principles of this comprehensive story structure to craft spectacular stones of your own.

PODCASTS
  1. TAP012, What is Three Act Structure? – The Authorpreneur Podcast | Writing Tips and Self Publishing Advice

So, you’ve got a story idea that you can’t wait to write and you’re wondering; how do you write a good story? Is there a structure you should follow as you write a novel? There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing a novel. If you’re just starting out, then this podcast recommends using Three-Act Structure.

  1. Fiction Writing Made Easy Podcast | Savannah Gilbo

There are four episodes here that cover Save the Cat Writes a Novel and the three-act structure using story beats. This is well worth a listen.

  1. Writing Excuses Season 2 Episode 8: The Three Act Structure with Bob Defendi – Writing Excuses

This episode from the Writing Excuses podcast talks you through the three-act format: every step, every element, every nuance of this very common and very helpful writing structure.

It’s important to remember when using the three-act structure or indeed any story structure, it is just a guideline. There is no need to change your story to fit the structure. Be flexible and change the structure to fit your story. While the three-act structure works for many different types of stories it doesn’t work for all, so take from it what you can, and don’t stress if it doesn’t suit your story. I hope you have found this week’s column helpful. As always please get in touch if they are any topics you would like me to cover.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated.
A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real.
Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel.
Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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