A Three-Act Ouline
This is the three-act character arc & story structure that I’ve been using, boiled down from many online sources. It is now packaged in my template for creating new scripts, stored under the handy research folder in Scrivener–but I figured I’d share it here for posterity. Please comment with any notes, or suggestions for alterations.
This is a pretty standard formula. If you run through any major Hollywood movie, you can map it pretty much directly to this set:
- ACT 1 – Introduction, contentment
- Introduce protagonist who will resist change (inner conflict), being perfectly content—or at least having no reason or will to change
- Plot Point 1 – Event that throws the character’s life off balance.
- Surprise shifts the story in a new direction
- Reveals the protagonist’s life will never again be the same
- Introduces an obstacle, which forces the protagonist to deal with something he/she would normally avoid
- ACT 2 – Emotional Journey
- Challenges — the protagonist struggles toward the goal/McGuffin
- Conflict! – Each conflict appears and resolves to move the story forward
- Inner and Outer conflicts, working together, alternating between hope and despair/disappointment
- External conflicts seem solvable then insurmountable, then solvable.
- Get into trouble. Raise the stakes. The character will make bad decisions.
- Ends with the hero’s dark moment—utterly beaten, abandoned, all hope of achieving the goal is lost
- Plot Point 2 – Throw the story in an unexpected direction, allowing the goal to be reachable
- Rally the troops, head for the goal
- Act 3 – Resolution
- Draw upon new strengths, realized by lessons learned in overcoming Act 2 conflicts
- Obtain the McGuffin / Achieve the goal.
- Wrap it up
- Show the character’s change