The third act is what your story has been building up to throughout your novel. It’s what the reader is waiting for. All the story threads must now come together. By the time the third act is finished, the reader must be satisfied that all questions have been answered and the conflict has been resolved. We must also tell the reader what happens to the characters after the story ends. The third act is generally broken down into three sections: the climax, the climactic scene, and the resolution. I have put together some articles and podcasts that discuss writing the third act.
Like all other acts, the third act opens with a bang, but unlike the other acts, it never lets up. All the threads we’ve been weaving up to this point must now be artfully tied together. The third act is where stories are made or rushed. Everything that’s come before is important, but this is where the writer’s mettle is tested. This article shares examples from film and literature to demonstrate stories that wow us with their endings. The third act usually begins around the 75% mark and a major plot point marks the end of the second act and the beginning of the third. From its opening plot point onward, the third act picks up speed and isn’t likely to slow down. The writer must allow for all the pieces to either be completely tied off or assembled for the showdown.
Act three is where your story’s threads will finally come together. Here your characters will face their final confrontation with your antagonist and overcome the conflict your entire novel has been building towards. Act three is responsible for completing your protagonist’s arc, tying into your overall theme, setting the tone for the end of your novel, and very importantly, leaving your readers satisfied with the journey they’ve just completed. The plot points of act three include the climax, the climactic moment, and the resolution. This article discusses these points and uses Disney’s Mulan to demonstrate.
This article from Well-Storied is one you can read or listen to. It is the third instalment of a mini-series on the three-act structure. It begins by giving an overview of the third act. The third act features three important hallmarks: the dark night of the soul, the climatic sequence, and resolution. Each is explained and discussed with examples from The Hunger Games, Pride and Prejudice, and The Fault in Our Stars.
Done correctly, The Blue Raven Club tells us that the third act will give your readers the satisfaction of having read a good story, and they and the hero they’ve been following for hundreds of pages have finally gotten what they deserve. The article discusses the three story beats within this act: the aha moment, the climax, and the final image.
This is the follow-up article to the one above from Helping Writers Become Authors – this is all about the climax. The climax of a story should have readers on the edge of their seats. It is where we pull out our big guns and it needs a scene that wows your reader. It might be a drawn-out physical battle or nothing more than a simple admission that changes everything for the protagonist. Almost always, it is a moment of revelation for the main character. Each climax is unique since each one must bear out the needs and reflect the tone of its story. However, they all have a few important factors in common. Examples from literature and film are shared to demonstrate these factors.
One of the most important elements in plotting a novel is the third act. In this episode from the podcast Writing Is Hard Work, they share suggestions and tips for making the third act the most important part of the novel.
In episode 50 of the Fiction Made Easy podcast, Savannah Gilbo discusses the ending beats of your novel and what they need to include.
This episode is all about finishing well and how the closing scenes are about more than just tying up loose ends. We want to leave our readers with the best possible impression of our writing.
The third act of your story must be tightly plotted and bring resolution to all the story threads in your novel. At the beginning of your novel, you make a kind of promise to the reader that the problems your character faces will in some way be resolved by the end, and so you must fulfil this promise in act three. I hope you have found this week’s column useful. As always, get in touch if there are any topics you would like me to cover.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan