Every great work is organized around the same simple structure.
As Stephen Pressfield wryly points out, here’s Herman Melville’s Moby Dick in three acts:
- Ahab sets out after the whale.
- Ahab chases the whale to the ends of the earth.
- Ahab and the whale duke it out to the death.
That’s a structure I can understand.
The other reason three-act structures work is that they are built to take the reader on a wild ride.
Three-act structures rest upon thousands of years of proven observations about the way the human brain tunes in, or tunes out, an oratorical presentation.
Writers know the story must have an internal logic that keeps moving and keeps people engaged.
Three-act structures follow the same movement-oriented framework:
Act One: Hooks you and draws you into the story.
Act Two: Delves into the tension in a riveting way.
Act Three: Resolves the tension in a powerful climax.