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Three act structure.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Miskatonic, Nov 5, 2015.

  1. kennyc

    kennyc Inkling

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    :eek: :eek: :eek:
     
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  2. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner Scribe

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    In 1993 I picked up a book on writing, and ended up throwing it across the room at an early chapter on W diagrams. How dare anyone try to reduce the pure art of storytelling into a formula! I went through a long phase of refusing to accept that there are technically important ways to write better - one I sincerely regret.

    Bottom line is that your cynicism is misplaced. Yes, there are probably a lot of crap books on writing out there - so just watch for recommendations. I made a few in this thread, and no doubt others will do so over time, too:
    http://mythicscribes.com/forums/writing-resources/14895-best-books-writing-fiction.html
     
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  3. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    I shall try to be a bit more open-minded.

    I guess I find it frustrating when I read so many "Don't do this with your novel" type articles. I can't tell if they are dealing with what won't make your book commercially viable, or if they really know that most readers actually don't like that.

    Ask 10 readers what they like and don't like and they probably won't all agree on the same things.

    It just causes confusion and confusion for me leads to inaction.
     
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  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Here's the thing, when you read things, you have to take several things into account. First, is what they're saying and how they're saying it. The second, what's the source of this information?

    I'd suggest finding good sources for your information. Articles on the internet can be helpful, but for me, I treat them as supplements.

    I found good sources to be from books that have been around for a while, and from podcasts by respected professionals. Personally, I've found that the good sources don't tell you that you must do X. They tell you here's how X works and how it can help. It lets you decide if this is something you want to use.

    If something confuses you into inaction, first try to make sense of it. Give it a good think. If you still don't understand, set it aside and ignore it for the time being. Sometimes it takes time for things to sink in.

    But while that's happening keep writing.

    In addition, break out the critical thinking skills and try to figure out if something is BS or not. BS usually makes less and less sense the more you read up on it and the more you think about it.


    There are no guarantees in terms of making your story commercially viable, but I think there's one thing that will help your chances. Write a gosh darn good story.

    How do you do that? A significant part of it is learning the craft. For me, it's about reading good books about craft, and then doing the most important thing of all, writing.

    And remember, you're trying to be a professional, don't expect immediate or easy results. Nobody looks at a professional baseball player throwing 100mph fastballs and thinks, I can read a few dos and don'ts, a learn few techniques, and in a few weeks, I can be throwing comets too.

    Don't make the mistake of looking at professional writing the same way. Just like it takes pro athletes year and years of practice to do their thing, it's the same with pro writers. I've heard writers use the phrase, "It took me ten years to be an overnight success."
     
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  5. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    All great points. I start to wonder if some of these articles try to pigeon hole readers in order to reinforce their point of view on what works.

    I guess if I have multiple story arcs over multiple novels I can just treat each arc as a three act story.

    Can you recommend a good podcast?
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2015
  6. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    The best one out there IMHO is writing excuses. Each episode is around 15 minutes long but packs in quite a lot. I sometimes listen to episodes multiple times. The hosts are Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells , Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Taylor, all pretty successful writers in their genres.
     
  7. Mark

    Mark Scribe

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    I use the three act dramatic structure and feel it gives me a lot of freedom to be creative. But if you want to read up on this you need to choose the books you read carefully, some express it dogmatically and too simplistically.
     
  8. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner Scribe

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    There are a lot of online articles written by aspiring writers, but the trouble is that it's the blind leading the blind. There are no absolutes in writing - genre writing is a different animal to literary writing, and there's room for cross over inbetween.

    Books on writing I've read basically talk about features - tools - that have a long tradition in good genre writing. I don't think any say "don't do this" as much as "try this and see if it makes your writing stronger". Unless, of course, you're literary agent Donald Maas in which case his message is "conflict, conflict, conflict!"

    Another good resource on the technicalities of writing are a series of writing lectures by Brandon Sanderson that were put on YouTube:
    https://www.youtube.com/user/WriteAboutDragons

    You don't have to agree with his creative decisions, but it's hard to disagree that the guy has good experience - and success - within the industry. Watch some of those, and they may point out areas you want to research further.
     
  9. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I have an alternate approach for your consideration:

    Find a book that you really like, one that exemplifies to the greatest degree possible what you want to achieve as a writer

    Read that book analytically. For every scene, try to determine the techniques used.

    If you're unable to see past the writing to the techniques, read more about writing craft until you can recognize techniques.

    Experiment with those techniques in your own writing.
     
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  10. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    The folks at Writing Excuses suggest taking a novel that you like and writing its outline; i.e., reverse engineer it.
     
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  11. kennyc

    kennyc Inkling

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    Yes the best way to learn to write is by reading great books. Historically that's been the best approach. It does help to have some flexible context into which to do the reading/analyzing, but studying what works and why in context along with your reason for writing is the best. This is why two instructional books are at the top of my recommended how-to-write books.

    The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante

    and

    Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

    and thirdly a more traditional book, but it too contains many great examples and analysis of them.

    Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway


    Read, re-read, study the stories you love and that you want to write. Then Write! Analyze/Critique your own work and Read, re-read, study, and write some more.

    There is no easy path other than the one recommended by Neil Gaiman.
     
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  12. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    It's funny how much this is becoming instinct for me now, in both books and movies. I can identify the elements of three act structure or the hero's journey everywhere. Especially moves, because I have been watching a lot of movies lately. An example I gave Miskatonic in another post is the "midpoint reversal". In the last couple movies I watched (MI3 and Fool's Gold) I checked the time right at the part that everything changed for the MC. The point when the stakes were raised higher then ever, or a point when everything crumbled around them or they had a false victory… yep, exactly the half way point.

    Today I watched The Sorcerer's Apprentice with my son (the Fantasia one) and checked the time right when Mickey destroyed the broom and then it backfired on him and turned into a million more brooms… yep, just after half way.

    It is surprising how many variations of stories can be made from one formula.

    This is actually why I have been watching a lot of movies lately. In two hours I can see:

    - How they framed both the external and internal conflict.
    - How they created the Save the Cat moment
    - How they created each scene to highlight the goal, the conflict, the building conflict.
    - How they raise the stakes throughout the story
    - How they show the character arc.

    Movies are great for getting a lot of ideas on story structure quickly. Book are great for seeing how they do it with words.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2015
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  13. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Yes, but just to be clear: outline on a scene level as well as a story level. Story level outline details how the story works. Scene level to figure out how to make scenes work - use of tension, showing, word choices. backstory, etc.
     
  14. kennyc

    kennyc Inkling

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    Interestingly today's Goodreads quote of the day:

    We write in response to what we read and learn; and in the end we write out of our deepest selves.
    - Andrea Barrett


    Happy birthday, Andrea Barrett! Some of the American novelist's characters appear in more than one story. She addressed this in her 2007 book, The Air We Breathe, which featured a family tree, outlining all the overlapping relationships.
     
  15. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    "If they are going to be stories, try and tell the stories you would like to read. ".

    I said this in an older thread and was told it's not what I want it's what the readers want.

    Glad to see someone agrees with me. :D
     
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