Three-Act Story: is it too rigid for me?

Many authors work with a 3-act story structure when writing a novel. It’s a formula, like any other. Yet, some authors find it a bit too rigid. They believe it can eventually break the creative wave.

Each author should find what works best for them, and for that, you need to know the formula and its implications.

What’s the 3-act story?

The 3-act story is a somewhat rigid structure, which you may find a bit restrictive. From the moment you decide to work with it, you can’t deviate much. It has some predictability and, as many authors work with it, your readers expect a few “rules”. If you avoid them, they’ll feel like something is wrong with your story.

Therefore, you have 3 acts to work with, and each of them must have a disaster. The first act is around 25% of the book, and it ends with a first disaster. The second one is the biggest, approximately 50% of your novel. At the end of the first half of this act, you have a new disaster. It must cause your character the need to evaluate its choices. The final act is about the final confrontation – 3rd disaster. It will end with the victory or defeat of your character (or a bit of both sometimes).

The disasters

After reading the previous paragraphs, you might be thinking, “Wait, a novel can have more than three disasters.” Well, that’s true, but the ones we’re referring to here are special and have precise rules.

Each one of the disasters must be thought of and executed very carefully. They must mark a psychological turning point for your character. They must have the kind of impact that might change everything.

Create some empathy, and make them stay

Each one of these disasters has a goal, and you can’t forget it. The goal is to make the reader care about the character. That’s why it is so important, especially initially, to create some empathy with the readers.

Take time to build a character that they will care about. This way, they will be concerned about each disaster and… will keep reading!