Select Page

Personal growth—in three acts

by | Aug 16, 2012 | Review | 0 comments







Stories are about struggles—successful or not—to grow in wisdom and understanding.

In a HAPPY story, the hero starts from a position of relative weakness or vulnerability, decides to face his fear, struggles to overcome his concrete problems, and eventually succeeds in doing so because of an increase in personal wisdom.

The three-act structure is built to support the notion of personal growth. The protagonist often refuses the Call because of a perceived weakness (“I’m not brave enough”, “I’m incompetent”, and so on). But the Intervening Mentor convinces the protagonist that the protagonist is the only one who can do what must be done. Despite being afraid, the protagonist crosses the first threshold. He pursues his Act 2 Goal, but experiences defeat at the end of that act. The hero realizes that he wasn’t addressing the problem on a sufficiently fundamental level, so he readjusts his goal in Act 3. In the Act 3 Climax, the hero faces his fear directly, proving that his struggles have taught him bravery, competence, or whatever he needed to learn. And, because of that internal change, the hero triumphs.

If there is a negative outcome—to be reductive, if the story is SAD—it will be about a failed struggle to grow in wisdom or understanding.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Freshsheet Reviews logo reversed

Subscribe Free!

Sign up for the FRESH SHEET newsletter and get curated local, national, and international arts coverage — all sorts of arts — every week.


Drop a line to


FRESH SHEET, the reviews and FRESH SHEET, the newsletter are available free. But writing them is a full-time job and arts criticism is in peril. Please support FRESH SHEET by sending an e-transfer to or by becoming a patron on Patreon.

Copyright ©2024 Colin Thomas. All rights reserved.