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.

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)