Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Three Act Structure: Act Three

Before finishing up this series, I just wanted to say I'm now in the third act of The Goddess of Vengeance Wore Pink Galoshes.  Only, kinda not really. At around 77k I should be passionately plumetting through those final pages, close to the ending, but I've been not very enthusiastic about writing the end. What I have been feeling quite excited about was the idea of going back and revising, trying to straighten up some problem areas I'd already identified.  I just felt I had to slog through the last bit to the end first.

And then I realized, why? Who's the writer here? So I'm paused at 77k, 5-10k from typing The End on the first draft, to begin revisions. I feel the tweaks along the way might cause some changes to the ending and that I might feel powered up and eager to write the ending once I've worked through everything so far.

Updates to come on whether this ends up being a terrible idea. :p
Thanks, But This Isn't for Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being RejectedThe excellent Thanks, But This Isn't For Us by Jessica Page Morrell has fueled my desire for revisions, to be honest. But as well as picking on characters and dialogue, she offers a helpful guide to structure - namely the ever-popular (for many reasons) three act structure.

The third act is where your MC faces his or her biggest challenge. Whatever has been building all this time, your MC has emerged from the Long Dark Night of the Soul ready for the fight - whether that means trying to win back her true love or facing down a serial killer, depending on genre and story.

Morrell's guide to the happenings in act three:
  • What was learned in the Dark Night of the Soul is put to the test. (In fact, I'm coming to think of this as where we really see the effect of character evolution throughout the first two acts - at least, that's what I have with Lauren in Pink Galoshes).
  • Pace picks up throughout the ending - shorter chapters, action boiling. The end delivers the emotional high (and/or low) point.
  • The MC undergoes both external and internal change.
  • The ending answers story questions and problems and ties up most or all subplots and loose ends.
  • The ending stems from the MC's nature - not something that is forced on him/her.
  • The ending delivers maximum drama with minimum words, and then ends - without lingering. This creates a satisfying ending.
The End.

Of course, if needed to explain later events, you can add an epilogue to show what happened next - rather than drag out the decisive ending. Whether it's true or not, I can't say, but I read that the original draft of Gone With the Wind didn't have a decisive ending - it dribbled on rather inconslusively, so Margaret Mitchell just axed everything after Rhett says, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!"


Jen said...

I love to find great writing books and I think the third act method might be just what I need! Thanks for the tidbit, I look forward to picking her book up this weekend, especially since I'm in revisions right now!

Good Luck with the writing, I hope you like the new changes you'll make!

Piedmont Writer said...

I'm not even in the third act yet but I'm thinking about going back to the beginning and revising/editing just to make myself get to the ending. I'm having issues I didn't want to have and I think if I go back and clean it up, I can get to the end.

Great post!

Old Kitty said...

Good luck with your tweaking!!! I always find that going over a story about to finish once or twice will inspire a proper ending - well I sort of hope anyway! :-)


And thanks for the Third Act information! Very very useful.

Take care

Summer said...

I used the Three Act structure on my last novel, and it was really helpful.

I'm dying to start revisions too, but I'm making myself hold off. It's been nicely to rediscover some of my other hobbies...

Lynn Colt said...

I stop to edit several times over the course of a rough draft--I think clearing up some tone/voice/plot issues helps me move forward with a clearer picture of what I'm doing.

Matthew Rush said...

You'll never know until you try. Glad to see you're going for it!

Guinevere said...

Jen, I haven't read it cover to cover yet, but I really like Thanks, But This Isn't For Us so far. I think it's probably the net-best thing to actually having an editor review your book's issues (man, I'd love that... and hate it... but also love it).

Guinevere said...

Piedmont, I hope that works for you (and that it works for me too)! I think it might make the ending much easier to write - and save much tweaking and re-writing later - to clear up those earlier issues before we get to the end. Let me know how it goes!

Guinevere said...

Old Kitty, I think what you said about going over the story to inspire a proper ending makes sense. Hopefully it works for me too! :) And thanks!

Guinevere said...

Summer, it's great to take a break from writing sometimes, isn't it? Enjoy your time off - and your rediscovered hobbies!

Guinevere said...

Lynn, thanks for sharing your process.. it's always neat to read how other writers do it! Especially since I'm trying it your way now. :)

Matthew, thanks! I'll get there eventually. :)

Mohamed Mughal said...

Love the title! :)

Shelley Sly said...

The third act can be tough to pull off, especially with pacing. Sometimes I find myself wanting to rush to the end and explain what happened, but it's just as important for this to unfold properly as it is for the beginning. I like this post! I do struggle with endings, so this is helpful!

Emma Michaels said...

I saw that you are a part of the Debut Author Challenge! That is so amazing that you are supporting debut authors and I only recently found out that I am going to be one!!! I wanted to ask if you wouldn’t mind heading over to my blog and giving me your opinion. As a blogger turned author I would really appreciate it and the publisher is still giving out ARCs so you might have a chance at a free copy! Thank you and I hope you will stop by and check out The Thirteenth Chime!

Emma Michaels

P.S.- My release date if Friday the 13th (August this year) isn't that crazy?

notesfromnadir said...

I'm so impressed w/ the amount of writing you've gotten done.

Free advice. Ignore the books for now, just finish your manuscript. Really, it's the best way.

THEN, you can look at how things are supposed to be structured. You'll have time while your ms. cools off for a few weeks.