Week 3 Act 3

Battle_of_Helms_DeepThe final installment of our look at the three act structure will be a bit shorter. Why? Because Act 3 is generally the shortest.

If you recall, Act 1 introduced the dramatic question; a question framed in context of what the protagonist must do to “win.” For example, “Will Bob get the girl?” or “Will Sally escape the stalker?” or “Will Hank discover the true murderer in time?” or “Will Tamara save the world?”

Act 3 answers this question, and does so in dramatic fashion. The climax of the film (or in our case, the novel) occurs in Act 3. The climax must be dramatic, must be bring the tension and suspense to the highest point in the film. Here is the dramatic stand-off with the ultimate evil. Here, Bob delivers the heart-felt speech moments before his true love says “I do,” to the wrong man. Here, the stalker corners Sally in a dark, abandoned corner and extracts a knife. Here, Hank races across town to confront the killer before he can strike again. Here, Tamara faces the ultimate evil with only her wits to overcome an ancient demon.

Tensions run to their highest point. The audience (or reader) is on the edge of their seat.

The third act also resolves the tension. After the epic battle (or epic speech, depending on the genre of the film or novel), the resolution wraps up whatever loose ends were left.

A few things to remember about Act 3.

Don’t shortchange your reader. Take your time with the climax. Don’t rush through it.

Don’t cheat your reader. Avoid deus ex machina. Whatever solution your characters arrive at, make sure they’ve earned it. Don’t allow something (or someone else) to resolve the tension.

Keep these in mind as you craft the perfect ending to your masterpiece.

Until then, good writing.

9 Comments on Week 3 Act 3

  1. Nothing kills a story quite like a lazy ending. Now, I’m not saying the ending needs to be happy–there are tons of stories about characters that ultimately fail, and sometimes even die at the end of the tale. The point is that the story needs to end in the right place and the right time.
    Write well, write often.

  2. Summer Connell | April 23, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Reply

    Sometimes I get lazy with my writing. I guess I need to work on expanding the rising action a little more.

  3. JessicaRae Padilla | April 26, 2013 at 7:49 am | Reply

    It’s always good to have a climax that’s long with alot of detail, because this will lead to the ultimate conclusion. If you just have a climax that just happens and is short it will confuse the audience and they wouldn’t be able to understand the conclusion.

  4. dina rodriguez | April 29, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Reply

    This confused me a little. Is it ending the conflict or causing tension? But it is important to end a story well and end conflict well. Because if you have a bad ending then realy your whole story can be bad. I have a bad habbit of reading the end of a book before I read the rest of it. If i dont like the ending then i wont like the book. Thats how a lot of people so make shure your endings are good.

  5. Christian Beaman | May 1, 2013 at 10:33 am | Reply

    I noticed that taking your time to make a better climax is very important and usually you can tell of you took your time or not.

  6. janet anderson | May 1, 2013 at 10:34 am | Reply

    im gonna be honest i hate writting the only time i write is when im deppresssed or i am told to now i guess i could do some more writting but there is nothing oi hate more than a horrible ending you put so much effort into the beginning ogf the story and then you start to get lazy at the end and say ehh! its alright but all you end up as a horrible writer and your going to get bad publicity about it.

  7. DeZerae Fraijo | May 14, 2013 at 9:44 am | Reply

    The climax of my novel is what I’ve been revising time and time again.
    I have had so many ideas running through my mind, I just need to fix it up.
    I feel that right now it is way too gumbled up to just leave alone. I need so much revision–my entire novel does!

  8. Drew Williams | May 17, 2013 at 7:41 am | Reply

    The second act builds up to the third act and the third act answers the unanswered questions, just like the last part of anything.It should contain the most surprises.

  9. If you have a bad third act it can completely ruin the entire story, and make people not want to read it.

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