View Full Version : 3 act structure

06 June 2005, 08:02 AM
I am a newbie scriptwriter but I have been writing stories for 10 years now.

I want to know how to plan the scriptwriting process, and what's the 3 act structure

Manuel Ponce
06 June 2005, 03:46 PM
I could be wrong on this one, but I'll give it the old college try.
Example: Boy meets girl (1), Boy loses girl (2), Boy wins girl back (3)
I think its : introduction, conflict, conclusion/resolution
I hope nobody beats me to this post. :)

06 June 2005, 05:09 PM
Basically, the three acts are:

1) Introducing the character, his outer goal (get R2 to the Rebel leader) and his inner goal (become a man). The act ends with the hero making the decision-- or being forced into the decision-- to act. In Star Wars, act 1 ends with Luke's decision to go to Mos Eisley. (Note: the hero rarely, if ever, is aware of the inner goal. But that goal is what makes them human to us. Look up "character arc.")

2) The trials and tribulations of reaching the inner and outer goal. This is the ups and downs of the story. In Star Wars it starts as Luke and Obi-Wan leave Luke's burning home, and it ends when they reach Yavin.

3) The final conflict and reaching the goals. In Star Wars it begins with the arrival at Yavin. The outer goal ends there-- delivering the plans inside R2-- but the inner goal doesn't really end until the Death Star battle, when Luke finally grows up and gains his self-confidence. The true climax is when the character makes a conscious decision to change. For Luke it's when he turns off the targeting device and trusts himself. Up to that point he was really just a kid, reacting to what was going on and following everyone else's orders.

Note: It can be a very interesting thing to have a character's inner and outer goal be the opposite, or at least at odds with each other. Oftentimes this means that the hero will, in the climax, sacrifice achieving the outer goal in exchange for achieving the inner goal, which by that point they're probably consciously aware of. Another interesting thing is to have the hero sacrifice achieving the outer goal in exchange for the inner goal but in doing so end up getting both. An example of this is Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy's outer goal was, of course, the Ark, and his inner goal was to win back Marion. He eventually comes to a point where Marion is more important to him than the ark, and that's what ends up winning both.


06 June 2005, 05:23 PM
You guys did a good job of explaining things, but my only suggestion would be to keep in mind that not all scripts NEED to be three acts. Most are, and it's the most common approach, but if your story just doesn't seem to be fitting into three acts, try different structures. A Beautiful Mind had five acts, and it worked beautifully, as that's what the story needed to be told (you could probably find a bunch of other examples if you searched around). I've been fiddling around with putting together an outline for a screenplay I may or may not actually write, and I originally had it split into three acts, with a bunch of stuff crammed into the beginning, just about the right amount at the end, and mostly blank ideas for the 60% of story inbetween. After thinking about it for a while, I split the whole thing into five acts, spreading the beginning out across two acts, shortening and clearly dividing the middle into two acts, and giving the end the remaining act, and I think it's going to work now.

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06 June 2005, 05:23 PM
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