On Writing

Why I Use the Three-Act Story Structure

There are many story structures out there. Now while I know of only a handful, I have already chosen the one I’m going to use for the rest of my writing (or until I become a lot more experienced and decide its not for me).

I use the three-act story structure format. If you’re not familiar with it, I’ll give a quick recap of what it is below.

There are, obviously, three different acts in the three-act format.

The first one is the introduction of the protagonist and the protagonist’s normal world, hinting at the conflict that is coming. A major event occurs in this act and the protagonist’s life is changed. This is followed by what is called the first plot point. The first plot point is the point of no return for the protagonist. They cannot go back to the normal world. This act is generally the first 25% of the story.

The second act is generally broken into two parts by the midpoint, which we’ll get to in a second, the first half is the protagonist’s reaction to what happened in the first act. Then the midpoint comes and they learn new information, usually advancing the plot in relation to the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist. The midpoint is also called the second plot point. This act is generally the largest chunk of your story, being around 50% of the story,

The third act is the climactic act. It starts with the third plot which is a major loss for the protagonist, such as a mentor dying or something of that nature. They generally react to that loss, more motivation is given, and then you get the climactic encounter between the protagonist and the antagonist. Then comes the resolution and end to the story.

There are a lot of subpoints to the acts of what is supposed to happen during those acts to keep the plot going, but I won’t address all of those right now.

So why do I use the three-act story structure?

Well, it makes the most sense to me for one thing. I see story structure that works almost like a triangle with the line going flat and then sharply curving upward and then back down again. That really isn’t how most stories work. The line going up to the climax is more gradual and then the line going down is a lot more drastic. The three-act structure makes it seem a lot more believable.

I’ve also found it’s very detail-oriented. It helps you ask questions about why things are happening and it breaks the story into enough chunks that you aren’t left with a huge chunk of story that you don’t know what happens. It makes sure that you have a general knowledge of what happens every 25ish% of the story.

So I use the three-act structure because it makes the most sense and is detail-oriented. But the story structure you use is purely a personal preference, nothing more. I prefer the three-act structure, but that doesn’t mean it’ll work the best for you!

What is your prefered story structure? Let me know in the comments below!

From my pen to your pape, may our sword never clash.

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