Welcome to the last part of three act structure. We have already discussed the first two act in my previous article and have tried to cover what’s in there. We also covered some important things which is usually not discussed like how to discover an end or a beginning of one act. If you haven’t read the first two article, then I suggest you go and read it first here. This is for your benefit so that you can understand what I am talking here.
So, to begin with, the last act that is our third act a.k.a climax of the story. The first thing about the third act you have to know is that it depends on the first two acts. No matter what you say and which school of writing you come from the last act does depend on the first two act. What you have done till now and does your reader care about your story.
Yes, the third act depends on the first two act to uplift itself, but that doesn’t mean it can’t do anything on its own. The third act carries a huge responsibility to give readers a satisfying conclusion. In other words it’s called completing the cycle.
In the three act structure, there are few things which have to keep in mind. First, if you are writing mystery and criminal novel, then there is an extra burden on you because this is the place where you unfold all your mystery. And the answer to the riddle should not be obvious and disappointing even if you have done an excellent job writing an exciting and enticing first two act. If you say that all that was for nothing but a frustrating clue, then you might tick off the readers.
Remember a majority number of reader decides on the last act whether to write a review or not. So, if you are a mystery or thriller novelist make sure your secret is worth the wait. Don’t build unnecessary hype and play a false hand if you don’t have the ammo to deliver.
Nothing will ever be the same.
This is an important lesson to learn for any writer by the end of the last act nothing will remain the same. This is one of the few rigid rules of writing. Yes, nobody knows the actual rule of writing. Everybody tries to figure out in their own ways but if there is a constant thing to remember. Nothing will ever be the same.
The whole point of the story and the struggle of your protagonist is that nothing will ever be the same. The three act structure is designed in such way. It doesn’t matter whether the outcome is good or bad. Tragic or happy but it will not be same. If you are still not convinced then look at your life the way you think and your life. Did it remain the same world you were in when you were eight years old moving from teenagers to an adult? A lot has changed, and it will change again. The character is no different they go through specific changes. Their desire their quest for their dreams will lead them to mistakes and Regrets. Sometimes they succeed sometimes they don’t.
If nothing changes at the end of your story, then you must think about your writing skill and what type of story you wrote. Suppose even if you wrote a time travelling sci-fi and at the end, after lots of struggle your protagonist returns to where he was at the beginning. Your protagonist doesn’t remain the same. He gains wisdom and certain perspective through his journey. Maybe this time he will do things differently. Yes, he came back to where he was, but nothing will ever be the same. The protagonist wisdom and experience will make it different from the first time.
So, an important thing to remember about the third act is that nothing will ever be the same. It can be good or bad doesn’t matter.
The last scene is as important as the first scene.
Being in the business as a writer and sometimes editor I have seen the obscene amount of obsession for the first scene. Writers put hours and hours of effort to write a perfect first scene/first chapter. There is no harm in writing a great first scene, but very few writer know the importance of writing a great last scene/ last chapter. We ignore the fact that some of most significant stories have an impactful ending scene. Romeo and Juliet, we all know how impactful the ending is. And when I say the last scene it doesn’t have to be the exact last scene to put in the simple terms last two- three scenes where everything goes down. The ending as we say the killer is revealed, love confessions happen, hero redeems and other scenarios.
Not only the ending has to impactful, but it also has to make sense completing the cycle. the whole point of going through three act structure is completing an arc. When we write the first scene, we have much liberty and freedom because we haven’t set any course but writing ending can be tricky. You don’t have the luxury of same freedom as you did writing first scene you have to work with what has already has been provided. This is going to test your skill as for how much you can squeeze out of the plot plus make it more exciting but more importantly more satisfying.
Now when I say satisfying I also mean don’t be an ass kisser. Yes, the reader satisfaction is necessary, but there are millions of readers. You might not satisfy everybody, so it has to be satisfying to you. You are the writer-creator of all the things happened in your fiction. You must have a vision of how it’s going to end or what you were trying to achieve. Never divert from that.
The ending is also important because it will separate your story from “oh it was good, to – oh it was great.” When a person finishes your book what is he thinking? Does he think about your story? Has your story stirred some questions out? I am going to take an example of two very famous movies “2001 space odyssey and Interstellar” my jaw dropped after watching these two movies. And I could not shake them for few hours what it did was it stirred my brain into thinking about the different possibility. The unknown it made an impression on me leaving me wanting to more. In simple terms, it gave me more than just a plot and characters just like the three act structure is more than just three act coming together.
That is the effect I am talking about. Now, those are science fiction, and they have a little edge against another genre, but I think no matter the genre we still can stir our thought process and can make an impact. You don’t believe me how about “dark knight” it’s superhero movie, but it does provoke your thought about right and wrong. The point here is to give them something more than just a plot or a good character. Great stories which have stood the test of times does that.
We always talking about avoiding one-dimensional characters but we should also think about avoiding one-dimensional story too.
We can get more technical and talk about thousand things but we are not gonna do that, so I am ending this article with my last topic, and that is
Sentiments have always been the center of literature no matter what. Emotions and feeling are what drives this story the passionate love, consumed by revenge or hatred. I guess this is one of the writing rules which no one can deny is that emotions.
From the beginning of three act structure if you feel angry and hate certain characters that don’t mean the story is terrible. It says that it is stirring your emotions it doesn’t have to be always positive. So emotions are necessary for the last act in fact emotions is a must for every act. Especially to romantic genres, readers expect to feel that love but not in a visible manner. There can be tragedy also at the end, but emotions are a must.
The work of emotion over here is to impact readers mind complementing the above topic about more than plot and a character. Emotions help to reach that ultimate state. To be mindful, it doesn’t have to be intense every time and grand, but your words should not be dead. After all, it’s the expression of the human soul.
So, to conclude I can still talk about more topics and more technicalities but all that is bullshit against writers instinct and his willingness to express. Write from your heart but don’t be ignorant try to learn and hone your skills. I hope this strings of articles have helped you. The mystery of three act structure is less intimidating now. As always comments and questions are welcomed.