Pages Written: 8
Pages Left: 85
44,585 / 70,000
(Man, I wish there was something I could do about this thing! it looks okay in preview…)
Killer writing day today. And boy, did I need it! Thank you so much to all of those who sent notes and posts of encouragement. I truly appreciate your support.
I entered Act Three. At some point in my development as a writer, I realized that I organically followed many of the steps writing instructors discuss in their books. (This isn’t to say I was a natural-born storytelling genius – though I *was*. LOL! 😉 I had and have and will continue to have other problems. The following just don’t happen to be examples of them). GMC? Check. Hero’s journey? Okay, got it (aside from all those hoity-toity metaphors. Caves? Really?). Chapter hooks? Woo hoo! I struggled with wrestling my story ideas into the concept of the three-act structure, until I saw it explained as truly a four-act structure, and then I realized that there was no wrestling involved. I think that with extensive reading and other methods of soaking up storytelling, certain rhythms just become ingrained. I don’t fill out GMC charts or think about my “acts” before I plan my novels, though if I find myself running into a problem, I use the tools in order to diagnose it.
I am a fan of the four act structure. I think envisioning your story like that is one of the easiest ways to avoid the “sagging middle.” Even if you do it naturally, going back and making sure that this is what you have done can often help you avoid later complications from bad planning. (I’m a big planner, by the way. BIG.) At it’s most simple, it can be viewed as follows:
Act One: Ordinary world and inciting incident
Act Two: Complications leading to a crisis.
Act Three: Consequences of that crisis leading to a climax.
Act Four: Climax and resolution.
To illustrate, let’s look at The Matrix, one of my favorite films.
Act One: Neo meets strange individuals who reveal to him that the world he has lived in is a lie, and he is in fact asleep inside a computer program. (ordinary world) He awakens, naked and bald in a pus-filled pod in the war-torn real world, forever disconnected from his digital life. (inciting incident)
Act Two: Neo trains to join an army of cyber-warriors. He learns that his leader believes he is a prophesized savior, but is told by an oracle (and believes himself) that it isn’t true. (complications) Returning from the meeting with the oracle, the crew is betrayed and murdered, and his leader is captured by the evil machines. (leading to crisis)
Act Three: Neo and the remaining members of the crew must fight to save their leader before he is forced to reveal the codes to their secret base. Neo believes he is at fault for his leader’s capture because the leader so firmly believed that he was the prophesized, invincible savior. (consequences of that crisis) Neo’s abilities are indeed astounding, but after saving the leader, he is fatally shot by one of the bad guys. (leading to a climax)
Act Four: As Neo dies, one of the crew reveals that she has always known that he was, indeed, the savior. (climax) Neo, realizing that it’s the truth, shakes off the fatal bullet wound, and proceeds to kick the bad guys’s asses, showing that he is indeed, the invincible savior. (resolution)
Ooh, this is fun! Let’s do other movies! The interesting thing is, authors often switch the setting upon a change in acts. That’s a signpost that you’re in a new act, and a hint for those looking to diagram stories. In The Matrix, Act One is almost entirely in the computer world, with Neo “waking” at the end. Act Two is half in the real world, and half in digital. Act Three begins in the real world for a pow wow with a quick return to the digital, and act four, again, is triggered by a powerful moment in the real world. The other important thing to keep in mind is that the “climax” in this structure is an emotional one, not a physical one. Often, they are intertwined, but the emotional high point of the story is the true climax. When Neo, the hero, is dying, and Trinity says that she loves him, and because her destiny was to love The One, he must be it, even the most hardened punk-metal action movie fan in the audience was holding his breath. Was Trinity right? Would Neo survive (to claim the kickass, raven-haired, leather-clad hottie)? Stay tuned for Act Four!
These acts don’t have to be the same size. In fact, they usually aren’t. Act Four of The Matrix is maybe 10 minutes, and most of those are Neo being a show off.
And, to illustrate how valuable this exercise is, in doing it, I realized that I’m not ACTUALLY in Act Three yet. I’ve begun the crisis, but it doesn’t reach its full strength for another chapter. (By the way, you non-planners out there, this is why it’s okay to plan, even if you end up changing things. My structure remains intact. My crisis is the same as it always was, it’s just got a different page count.)
You see, I’ve given my protagonist many things, and she likes them all. She likes her grades, her job prospects, her romances, and her secret society. And now that she has learned to appreciate them, I’m going to take them away from her, one by one, until she is thrust, trembling and determined, into Act Three. Mwahahahaa
Let’s she if she becomes The One.