God Bless 3 Act Story Structure

I started looking at 3 act story structure last year. I didn’t have the first inkling when I wrote I Wish… I made an outline sure, but it was just based on a story that occurred to me. I was blissfully unaware that there should be a midpoint or that the B story should reinforce the theme. I didn’t even have a theme in mind. I just went for it.

It was an amazing feeling. Words just poured out of me and onto the page. But was it flawed? Oh yeah. Most notably is the ending. It ends abruptly. I reworked it a couple of times and it still doesn’t flow quite right.

For this first experiment with script writing, I’m relying really heavily on the Save the Cat beat sheet, which is influenced by Syd Field. I’ve watched around 8 or 10 movies since I started this project and they all pretty much followed his formula within a minute or two. I did have some troubles pinpointing the beats in Little Miss Sunshine. They are probably there, but the emotional highs and lows are so mild that it’s really hard for me to spot. A character dies and the family is no worse off than they were. The emotional low point is color blindness? Really? Oh well, it’s something I’m not getting, I’m sure. It has to be because that movie is pretty much universally agreed to be a good one.

Anyway, as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve got my little digital cork board all set up with 40 index cards. I’ve got a story that’s sitting in my head in a fairly complete state. I’m still missing a few filler scenes, but pretty much every important scene is stewing away up there. Now I’m in the process of plugging those scenes into the framework. And incredibly they are starting to fit.

This isn’t going to be the script where I internalize the structure and neither will the next one or two, but I can see where there’s potential for it to happen. Before long I’m going to be able to write a script that hits the marks at all the right places without having to rack my brain and decide if what I’m thinking should go in the second act or the third.

This can only mean good things for the stories I will write in the future. I can already tell that my endings will be much better paced. In fact I’m going to take a look at my outline and make sure that there are clear cut beats for the midpoint and plot points. I think I had some idea of them when I laid it out before, but it’s definitely becoming clearer to me as I work with this concept more.

If you’re working on a novel and you feel like something is missing, it might be the underlying structure isn’t quite right. I’d strongly recommend that you read up on 3 act story structure and see how well your story works. It sure can’t hurt. And in my case, I think it’s going to be the best thing I’ve done to improve my writing yet.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “God Bless 3 Act Story Structure

  1. Oh, Wren. I had just about given up on you blogging – glad I stopped by here, I missed your posts!

    Happy to hear that 2011 was such a great year for you – hopefully 2012 can be great for both of us!

    • I got into a guilt cycle. I wanted to write a sequel, but it wasn’t working. Which is fine except I felt too guilty to work on something else. And it just went on and on. Which leaves me with nothing to blog about because what am I supposed to say about all that? I think there was also a little bit of self loathing in the mix. It made me feel like I was failing.

      I think I’ve figured out a better way to do things though. As long as I’m working on something writing related, I’m going to just let myself be. Right now, it’s turning out that working on this script is engaging me more than writing a novel, but that’s cool. It’s still helping me improve my skills and it might even lead to a sale at some point down the road. So either way, better than video games or something, lol.

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