Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Three-Act Plot Structure

Aristotle proposed a three-part structure for dramatic plays in fifth century (BC) Athens. It has been a popular part of story writing ever since. The three parts, or acts, consist of a setup, a confrontation, and a resolution. This version of the three-act structure is designed by Steve Alcom in his online course, “Write Fiction Like a Pro” available at The story structure architect is Victoria Lynn Schmidt, PhD.
Act 1 starts with a Hook. This is the opening event which grabs the audience’s attention and defines the premise of the story. The main character is generally introduced in this opening scene.
Act 1 continues with some back story. All the major characters are introduced so that the audience knows who they are and what relevant events have already transpired.

Act 1 ends with a trigger. This inciting event establishes the major conflict and sets a goal for the main character.

Act 2 starts with the main character in crisis, in response to the trigger event from the previous scene. This is where the hero begins his journey; where he accepts that something must change.

Act 2 continues with the struggle, a series of events that lead the main character to the climax. Perhaps this is where a series of trials occur, minor conflicts are resolved, and the main character evolves as a result of the experiences.
Act 2 ends with an epiphany, where the main character recognizes his flaw and understands what must be done to accomplish the goal set at the end of Act 1 and to complete the journey.

Act 3 starts with the plan. Having had the epiphany, the main character know what must happen, and figures out how to achieve the goal.
Act 3 continues with the climax, the point at which the final confrontation takes place. The goal is achieved and the main character is a changed person because of the accomplishment.

Act 3 ends with the resolution of all conflicts and an understanding of the new status quo.

In my next post I’ll discuss genre-specific exercises for developing a plot.

All of the brainstorming exercises described in this blog series can be found in my Scrivener template on Google Drive at
For non-Scrivener users, Personal Noveling Assistant (PNA) pages are at

For more about my stories, check out my author page at

No comments:

Post a Comment