The Importance of the 3-Act Story Structure

Aristotle tried to figure out what made the plays in Greek amphitheaters work, and he put the things that kept coming up in his book "Poetics."

He divides work into a prologue, an episode, and an exodus, commonly known as the beginning, the middle, and the end.

With the study and how different authors have used it, we can now say that the structure of 3 acts is made up of Act I (the beginning), Act II (the middle), and Act III (the end).

This simple structure is excellent for beginners, but don't let that fool you—when it's done right, it's very powerful.

It helps you put your ideas in order and think about the most critical parts of the story.

Even though many people don't like structure, it's important to put facts in a way that makes sense so that people can better understand the stories we tell.

The three-act structure is crucial because it provides a foundation for your story and prevents you from straying from the point of your video. A movie's viewers may be lost without some introduction to the plot. They might be unable to relate to or grasp the characters' plight. Without conflict, the story may fail to engage the reader or viewer. Is there no way out of this? The audience will be frustrated that they wasted their time.

It's impossible to make a good film without using the tried-and-true 3-act structure. Without it, your video will fall apart because it lacks a coherent narrative. So let's analyze each act individually below.

Act 1 – the setup (the beginning)

The introductory act introduces the characters, usually in their Common World: scenarios and day-to-day experiences. It is the point to set the tone of your narrative. 

If you don't want to start with the Ordinary World, you can also use a Hook, something impactful that happens at the beginning of the story.

Additionally, your Protagonist may start with a wish, or an erroneous belief about something, until an Inciting Incident shakes everything he knows.

This incident will set the story in motion, forcing the Protagonist to take action and embark on an adventure, among other possibilities.

As for the incident, the options are endless, ranging from a simple phone call to a kidnapping or serious accident.

But not to confuse, the hook is the hook that will hook the reader in the work, and the incident is what will call the Protagonist to action.

Act 2 – the confrontation (the middle)

It is the biggest and most laborious of the acts because it corresponds to half of the story. But, generally speaking, it can be summarized as progressive conflicts.

The challenge here is maintaining the reader's interest and set the stage for the final conflict, or Climax. 

In this part, the problems must be intensified so that everyone thinks that the objective will not be reached; the scenes need to inject tension into the story and need to worry.

Ideally, each conflict should be more intense and vital than the previous one to create a growing structure for action. 

It is worth noting that action does not necessarily mean a physical fight. Instead, it can be more psychological, connected to the character's interior.

You can also develop your act II by working with the subplots: introducing secondary characters and their plots so that the reader catches his breath.

Just don't forget to complete the stories generated by the subplots and deliver a great connection between them and the main plot, okay?

In addition, parsimony is necessary because remember that conflicts must be dosed with more neutral situations so that reading does not become tiring. 

An interesting approach is to think that, in this act, the Protagonist will think he can solve the problem, but it only makes things worse.

Act II ends at the second transition point, a point of no return in which its Protagonist, already entirely transformed and with several lessons learned, makes a new choice that leads to the Climax.

Act 3 – the resolution (the end)

Here, the biggest conflict will be realized, and all questions need to be answered; the risk is more prominent, and it's all or nothing.

Act III may begin with a build-up to the Climax. The Protagonist took a breath, faced its challenges, and now must prepare for the last great battle.

The Climax is the confrontation with what your Protagonist fears the most, which could be the antagonist itself or some internal psychological issue that must be overcome.

Act III must leave the reader instigated to know how the story will end.

Regarding the end, there are three possible versions:

  • Happy Ending: The goal is achieved, and the character is victorious in every way.
  • Unhappy ending: when the goal is not achieved.
  • Bittersweet Ending: When the goal is achieved, but the character loses something of value, something terrible happens, or vice versa.

You can even make an Epilogue, which you can use to highlight changes that have occurred after a while or answer some outstanding questions.

And you can also make a Final Hook in the case of stories with continuation.

Finally, this is just a model for your story to gain progression and quality and delight more readers.

Far from being static, you have complete freedom to modify it as you see fit, as you may have already followed this structure intuitively.

A good exercise is to analyze famous works and place them in the structure to identify each point better.

With this, your understanding of the structure will be greater and greater, and your creative process will be facilitated.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.


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