Using the 3-Act Structure to Plan Your Novel

by | Apr 15, 2021 | Featured Article | 0 comments

Do you dream about writing your very first novel but hesitate to make the first step? Well, if you don’t have previous experience, it might be challenging for you to understand how to get started.

Learn how to build a 3-act structure plan for a novel in the firsts place – it will help you take your project off the ground.

What is a 3-act structure plan for a novel?

A 3-act structure is a popular writing technique applied by screenwriters and storytellers. The structure includes three main elements: set-ups, conflicts, and resolutions. As you have already guessed from the name of the technique, the novel itself is supposed to be divided into three acts: the beginning, the middle of the story, and the end.

Different writers use different versions of such a technique, so the length of each act may vary. For instance, if the first act and the last act are nine chapters long, the second act might be eighteen chapters long.

However, the “classical” version of a 3-act structure plan for a novel includes three acts of the same lengths. Each act is divided into nine chapters. As a beginner, you should follow this structure and aim to create 27 chapters in total.

What are the benefits of using the 3-act structure?

Why do authors prefer to use the 3-act structure to plan their novels?

Firstly, this structure is easy to understand and easy to follow. It works perfectly for all: newbie storytellers and experienced writers.

Secondly, this technique allows authors to create a fast-paced novel and engages readers. By using a 3-act structure, writers increase tension in the story and keep readers turning pages.

The key elements of the 3-act structure

Below, you can see the key elements of a 3-act structure plan for a novel:

  • Act I – Setup:
    • Exposition
    • Inciting Incident
    • Plot Point One
  • Act II – Confrontation:
    • Rising Action
    • Midpoint
    • Plot Point Two
  • Act III – Resolution:
    • Pre Climax
    • Climax
    • Denouement

Now let’s talk about each of these elements in more detail and consider Cinderella’s story as an example.

Act I

Exposition

In the first chapter, you should introduce your hero to the readers. You should describe the environment your hero lives in, and present the values, believes, and attitudes the hero has. At this point, readers get a clear understanding of how the protagonist’s everyday life looks like.

Do you remember the first chapter of Cinderella? From the first few pages of the book, we learn that Cinderella lives with her evil stepsisters and their mother, who treat her poorly. Cinderella plays the role of the maid – she has to do all the hard work around the house.

Inciting Incident

Inciting an incident is the first event (or decision) that occurs in the story.

In Cinderella’s story, the inciting incident is the moment when the invitation to the grand ball arrives.

Plot point one

In this part of your novel, you need to show how different characters, including the protagonist, react to the inciting incident. You should write about the feelings that your protagonist is experiencing and the actions he decides to take.

How Cinderella reacted to the fact she can’t go to the ball together with her stepsisters and stepmother? She felt upset and burst out of tears. Unexpectedly, a fairy godmother appeared and provided her with everything she needs to go to the ball, including a stunning dress, slippers, and coach carriage.

 Act II

Rising Action

Now you should describe the event that will change the hero’s life forever. Here you need to let your creative juices flow and find the right words to immerse readers in your imaginary world.

Cinderella dances with the prince – at this moment, she understands that she’s met the love of her life.

Chapter 2 – Midpoint

The second act is a midpoint of your novel. Here you need to present the event that will change the current situation upside-down. You should write something that will impress readers and make them curious about what happens next.

Cinderella leaves the ball and accidentally loses her slipper.

Chapter 3 – Plot point two

Now you need to describe the immediate consequences of the event that has just happened. If you feel that you need some inspiration to continue your novel, visit a helpful site for writers and students. Look through the essay database to discover new writing ideas.

The immediate consequence of Cinderella’s runaway – the prince announces that he will marry a woman whom the tiny slipper fits.

Act III

Pre Climax

This part of your novel is supposed to be all about creating pressure and stress. You should make readers understand that your story will end soon and make them doubt whether it will be a happy ending.

What the most stressful moment of Cinderella’s story is? Stepsisters try to force their feet into the slipper – readers worry whether stepsisters will trick the prince and steal Cinderella’s chance for a happy life.

Climax

Finally, you have reached the point when you can satisfy your readers’ curiosity. You can present the decision your hero has made or the solution he has found. It’s the moment when you release the pressure and let readers enjoy the story’s ending.

Prince sees Cinderella and understands that the slipper fits her foot – that’s the moment readers have been waiting for the most.

Denouement

The denouement is the final part of the novel in which you need to depict the new environment your hero now lives in and explain how the hero’s life has changed.

Cinderella and the prince get married and live happily together in a big beautiful castle.

Wrapping up

As you can see, it’s not that difficult to use a 3-act structure plan for a novel. If you are a beginning writer, we highly suggest you try out this technique. It will help you to enhance your writing and create a captivating novel.

BIO: Kristin Savage is a creative content creator and a beginning writer. Currently, she is working on her first novel and is getting ready to self-publish it. Kristin is a blogger who is aspired to inspire people to develop their writing talents.

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