Yesterday, we talked about the basics of the three-act structure by Syd Field. Today, we’ll weigh some of the pros and cons of using this method to plot our stories.
First of all, we have to acknowledge that this structure is very simple. In some ways, that’s one of its strengths. Because there’s not a whole lot set in stone, the three-act structure is highly flexible.
It’s also almost universally applicable. Even if you haven’t used the three act structure in plotting your story, odds are good you can apply it now. In fact, all of the plotting methods that we’ll examine later can be sketched out on the three act structure outline, too.
Finally, it’s very popular: it’s easy to find examples of the three-act structure in virtually every story we know and love. It’s familiar to readers, easy to understand and apply, and almost what we expect when reading a story.
However, this kind of outline of the three act structure is a little generic. It doesn’t offer a whole lot of guidance in the way of how to keep building in the story. It doesn’t give us a way to avoid the dreaded “sagging middle.”
On the other hand, Bonnet argues that studying structure doesn’t automatically make you a wizard at writing well-structured stories. But come on—not studying structure is even less likely to help you avoid Winchester Mystery Stories.
Bonnet’s alternative (emphasis added):
Aristotle’s classical structure, which is the dominant feature of this structure, can stand alone. All of the structures you might find in the act are already built into the problem solving action that encounters resistance, namely: conflict, complications, crises (turning points) climax and resolution. It is, in fact, the structure of any problem solving action (real or fiction) that encounters resistance.
Does that sound a little familiar 😉 ?
What do you think? What weaknesses and strengths do you see in using the three-act structure to plot your story? Would you use it?
Picture by Luke