The Tragedy of Three Act Story Structure

Note for Me: Probably, I should have made a video on this topic.

I have been watching, reading and following lots of modern content. There is a drastic increase in mediums through which many storytellers can tell their stories. While many good and new storytellers are getting benefits from it, there are lots of bad content served to us in the name of entertainment.

For me, the bad story is the plagiarised content, careless approach to characters or its motivation and repeated story with different packaging.

In these stories, I noticed the three-act story structure. It looks like everyone has just basic-level knowledge of the classic storytelling method and they are using it to get away from the real work i.e. developing the story.

What is Three Act Story Structure?

The Three Act Structure is the most common methodology used to craft a story. The structure consists of three acts: Introduction of the characters and the problems (the setup), Attempt to resolve the problem (the confrontation), Find the solution and get the resolution (the resolution).

While this methodology looks simple, many fail to execute it in a proper manner. The most common mistake is that the writer often overlooks the important aspects (variables) of the story. However, there are many classic and popular novels, films, stories and plays that have followed its rule successfully. For any beginner writers, the three-act structure can be their best to understand the process of storytelling.

Now, if it is so good why some of the new storytellers fail to rightly execute it?

Mocking the Structure by Overusing Harshly

A story has many aspects to take care of such as characters, background, plot points, incidents or events, cause & effect and resolution. These aspects come at the different point in the three-act structure. When a lazy writer just starts using similar characters, plot points, incidents and background and reprograms everything into the three-act structure, it becomes recognizable and boring for the reader or the audience. It mocks the classic methodology as well as the audience. Many of the modern storytellers fall into this line and exploit the structure carelessly.

Failing to Play with Variables

Try to remember all the good novels, stories or movies you read and see if those stories follow the three-act structure. But, did you enjoy those stories? If your answer is yes, it is because that it never made you recognize the patterns. The storyteller has played with the different characters, their motivations, unique backgrounds, plot points, distinctive events. Experimenting with these aspects make the story unique. For example, Watch any of Friends episode that usually episodic 3-act story carrying the weight of character development and their progress in their life. In Sitcom, this is a classic way to keep the audience engage.

There Are Other Methods

Since a story comes from our own life experiences and incidents, there is no way it can be finished in just three acts. There can be a four-act structure, five-act structure or as many acts as we want. There are lots of books, movies, plays and stories that don’t follow the three-act structure but they connect and are popular.

As a storyteller, we don’t need a particular pattern to complete the story. We must create and develop characters & backgrounds and trust our ability to progress through their actions and events. Try experimenting in these areas. Experimentation is the key to learn the craft.

Keep Reading Keep Humming Keep Telling Stories

4 thoughts on “The Tragedy of Three Act Story Structure

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