Select Page

Three-act basics

by | Aug 7, 2011 | Review | 0 comments

Substantive editors such as myself help writers to structure their stories. For full-length manuscripts, I work a lot with a three-act model.

The three-act model breaks down pretty simply. In Act 1, we find out what the ordinary world of the protagonist (the hero) is like. In Act 2, the adventure begins and the protagonist goes after what s/he wants. In Act 3, the protagonist goes after what s/he needs. So the protagonist’s understanding of what they must do deepens as the story progresses.

In future posts, I’ll write more about the three-act structure.

In the meantime, allow me to recommend two excellent books on the subject: The Way of the Screenwriter, by Amnon Buchbinder; and Story, by Robert McKee. Both of these books are about cinematic storytelling, but their principles apply equally well to novels.


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Your email address will not be published.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.