What is three act structure? [9/52]

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You’ve probably heard of three act story structure. If not here’s a quick recap from Reedsy:

  • Act I - Setup: Exposition, Inciting Incident, Plot Point One

  • Act II - Confrontation: Rising Action, Midpoint, Plot Point Two

  • Act III - Resolution: Pre Climax, Climax, Denouement

This site has a great description for the different parts of the three act structure. That being said, when I outline a novel I use Michael Hauge’s 5 Key Turning Points of All Successful Screenplays. Yes, he is talking about screenplays specifically, but the story elements ring true for novels too.

The parts are similar to the three act structure (since all good stories follow the same basic rules), but he has renamed a few and provided some key points that help with transitions. His structure looks like this:

Stage I: Set Up (0% - 10%) | 5K
Turning Point 1: The Opportunity (10% - 15%) | 2.5K
Stage II: The New Situation (15% - 25%) |  5K
Turning Point 2: Change of Plans (25% - 50%) | 8.5K
Stage III: Progress | 4K
Turning Point 3: Point of No Return (50% - 75%) | 11K
Stage IV: Complications and Higher Stakes | 1.5K
Turning Point 4: The Major Setback (75% - 90%) | 4.5K
Stage V: The Final Push | 3K
Turning Point 5: The Climax (90% - 99%) | 5K
Stage VI: The Aftermath (99% - 100%) | 1K

The numbers at the end are just target word count goals I added based on the percentage goals associated with each step. On his website, he explains what each step should include and he gives examples from movies. Be sure to check it out here.

If you want to give this structure a try next time you outline a novel, feel free to use this Google Doc with the different stages mapped out. If you follow these tried and true story structures, I think you’ll find that you will start writing higher quality stories.

Jump. Build, Fly.
F.C. Shultz