Act Three

Structure-v2The Third Act is where you need to tie it all together. All the developments, clues, character traits and leads presented in Acts One and Two tie together in Act Three.

The Second Plot Point provided the final piece to the puzzle, and now your hero has clear sight of the final goal. Okay, maybe not a clear sight. But she knows, essentially, the path to the truth. And that path needs to be littered with obstacles.

Since Act Three is completely informed by what comes before it, I tend to leave the detailed plotting for the resolution until after I’ve written the first draft of the first two acts. The essentials are plotted, (battle with number one henchman leads to information to main villain’s location. Final, ultimate battle with villain) but the details are left until the last minute.

The main character trait here is that your hero must be willing to die – literally – to win the day.

Some things to not do in Act Three:

  • Don’t introduce new characters. Everybody needed for the resolution of the story needs to have been introduced by now.
  • Don’t introduce new traits for existing characters. Their strength, speed, skills can’t be new to the reader in Act Three. Introduce them, preferably, in Act One.
  • Don’t have a character other than your hero be the hero. The hero/protagonist/main character needs to be the one driving the resolution. Always. No exceptions.
  • Whatever you do, please don’t end the story without a resolution, as a fake “cliffhanger” to entice your readers to buy the next book to find out what actually happened. It’s a cheat. Readers hate it.

After the hero has solved the crime/beat the bad guy/rescued the dude in distress/saved the world, by all means set up the next story, if you’re planning a series. Just resolve the story the reader started, okay?