The Basics of the Three Act Structure: Act III (the Ending)

The Basics of the Three Act Structure: Act III (the Ending)

The simplest building blocks of a story are found in the basic Three Act Structure (which can be used for both screenplay and novels). Act 1 is the beginning, Act 2 is the middle, and Act 3 is the ending. The components in the Three Act Structure are basically fundamental stages along the way of a story. To summarize the acts before I develop Act 3 and its components, I’ll say that:

Act 1 consists of the first quarter of the novel (or screenplay)

Act 2 consists of the next two quarters of the novel (or screenplay)

Act 3 consists of the final quarter of the novel (or screenplay)


What happens in Act 3?

Act 3 is usually called the resolution, and the basic components in the third act are:

  • Climax — Everything in the story leads up to this point where the hero/heroine meet the antagonist in a confrontation. This is the point of the story where the plot reaches its highest tension.

  • Denouement — This is basically the ending where a state of equilibrium and calm returns.


Now, let us take a deeper look into Act 3.

Act 3 is all about the resolution of the story. This final act should show how the main character is able to succeed or become a better person. Everything that you’ve written in Act 1 and Act 2 leads up to this final act, so make sure you create a lot of interesting tension here as well as tying all the loose ends. If you have asked a question (stated or implicit) you have to answer it before the story ends, otherwise it might confuse the reader (that is, if you don’t have a series planned, because a question in one story can then be answered in the next).

Tension should rapidly dissipate in the denouement because it’s nearly impossible to sustain a reader’s interest very long after the high-tension climax. Don’t bore the reader after they’ve read the length of you story with a lengthy ending. End the story where the reader will feel like they want to read your next one.

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Is there anything else you think about in Act 3 that I’ve not mentioned in this post?

The Basics of the Three Act Structure: Act III (the Ending)
The Basics of the Three Act Structure: Act III (the Ending)

Do you want a Scrivener or Microsoft Word template that will help you with your story’s structure?

The Story Structure Template is designed to help you create and develop your story and its structure.

It includes a template for the Three Act Structure, one for the Seven Point Story Structure, and one for The Hero’s Journey structure so that you easily create or develop your story from the structure you like best.