Happy Monday, my friends! Let’s talk writing! I learned this technique some years ago during a college class and I thought I’d share it with you and show you how I outline my novels. The 3 acts are as simple as a beginning, a middle, and an end. But let’s break it down a touch further, shall we?
It’s going to look something like this:
But what does any of that nonsense mean? Well, let me explain:
Act 1 usually takes up the first quarter of the book and contains two sequences. This technique is actually used in screenwriting, but still works wonderfully for novels.
Sequence One — Status Quo & Inciting Incident
Here, we have the Status Quo and Inciting Incident. This is when you introduce the main character of your story and what their lives were like before the inciting incident that’s about to turn everything upside down. At the very end of this sequence, you introduce your inciting incident that will propel your story forward.
Sequence Two — Predicament & Lock-in
Sequence two is when you introduce your character to the predicament, or they are “locked-in”. In other words, the predicament is when the main conflict is introduced and the lock-in is when your character has no other options — the point of no return.
Act II tends to take up about half of your story and is made up of four sequences with your mid-point climax right in the middle. This, in my opinion, is the most intimidating act. There’s a lot going on here! So let’s break this section down into a more manageable amount.
Sequence Three — First Obstacle & Rising Stakes
A mini, less dramatic climatic scene. This is usually the first obstacle and the stakes begin to rise for your characters.
Sequence Four — Midpoint
This is the midpoint of your novel, usually when the story changes — when the character has a plan but things go array — when the characters believe something is going to happen but then it doesn’t — In other words, the midpoint is where we change gears. In a tragic story, it would be a very sad moment. Instead of a big win, it’s a big miss.
Sequence Five — Subplot & Rising Action
Another mini, less dramatic climactic scene. This is often a section of the story where the writer loses momentum, and one piece of advice I can offer is to explore other subplots to add tension to the conflict.
Sequence Six — Main Culmination
This is your main climax, the biggest one of them all. This can either be the highest or lowest point for your characters and it’s most often when the tension of the main conflict fizzles out and a new conflict is introduced that will carry us through the final act.
This is the final quarter of the story where we begin to wrap things up.
Sequence Seven — New Tension & Twist
These scenes are usually short and rapid compared to your midpoint and the twist will typically come at the end of this sequence.
Sequence Eight — Resolution
This is where one more climatic scene wraps your story up.
*one thing to note is that not all novels have a twist, which means occasionally , Act III will only have one sequence where we get one last climatic scene that wraps the story up.*
I want to disclaim that this isn’t the “right” or the “best” way to write a novel. There’s no such thing. But this is a format that I find the easiest to follow during my outlining process. Many authors use this popular technique, one of which is Victoria Aveyard, who talks about if frequently on her social media.
This style of story-telling isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay! But give it a try and see how it goes for you — if anything, you’ll just learn what does and doesn’t work for you and your story! I’ll be sure to do another breakdown of a different novel writing structure in the future!
Good luck and happy writing! 🙂