Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Three-Act Structure: Part 3

Now, let’s look at the final act of the three-act structure.

The end of the story approaches and the protagonist must venture into the most dangerous and frightening area, where she’ll face either physical or psychological death. She’ll use everything she’s learned so far on her journey toward this struggle.

As the climax nears, you need to increase the pace by shortening the chapters and keeping the action going.

Make sure the ending is emotional, especially for the protagonist. In a romance, this is where the hero and heroine will realize they really are meant to be together.

The protagonist must have grown by now. If the reader were to look back from beginning to end, she should see a constant growth within the character’s arc (with possible temporary setbacks along the way).

Unless this is a continuing series, for the most part, story questions are answered and loose ends are tied up.

There are two typical beginner mistakes to avoid once you get to act three. One tendency is to rush through the ending because the writer is so excited about completing the work that she hurries through one of the most important parts. Slow it down, but not too much. The ending shouldn’t drag. The other error I see is when the writer doesn’t want to the story to end, so she prolongs the ending. Remember, typically, act three is only a quarter of the novel’s length.

Understanding the fundamentals of the three-act structure is necessary when creating your best seller. Hopefully, these posts have shed some light on the subject.

Have you ever read a story that up until act three kept your attention, but somehow fizzled out by the end? How have story endings disappointed you?


  1. A few story endings have ended in disappointment-I see what you mean by making the end drag out. If there wasn't a lot of pressure on the ending, it would be my favorite part to write!

  2. "As the climax nears, you need to increase the pace by shortening the chapters and keeping the action going."

    Excellent point. I actually started to do this for my current Wip without really thinking about. It felt natural to shorten the chapters to build up suspense toward the climax.

    Overall, all really good points you mentioned.