3-Act Structure Method: Outlining & Brainstorming Your Novel

Learn how to use the 3-Act Story Structure and how you can use it’s system to create your story outline. While not everyone has to outline their novel, it’s a great way to organize your story and deter writing blockages.

If you ever find yourself struggling to create your story, try using the 3-Act Structure. This article dives into the 3-Act Structure story method.

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Using the 3-Act Structure Method to Outline Your Novel

THE FIRST ACT

The Hook (1%)

The Hook starts the moment the first words cross your readers mind and is intended to (literally) hook your readers into your story. Introduce your reader to your protagonist in the first few pages and grip them with an engaging and multi-dimensional character.

Remember, your readers often connect with the first character they’re introduced to, so make sure your reader engages with your protagonist.

Introducing the Regular World (1%-10%)

Now that you’ve engaged your reader and given them a reason to invest in your story, you’ll show them your protagonist in their “normal environment”, in their Regular World.

While the Hook was about introducing your protagonist, this portion is about introducing your protagonist’s main world, including the main cast of characters your reader will engage with throughout the story. You might even introduce your protagonist’s school bully!

Focus on internal and external dialogue and use immersive writing and show and engross your readers into their world.

The Inciting Incident (10%)

Something happens. It might be big. It might be small. But something happens. Whatever it is, it’s the event that plunges your protagonist into the story, but it’s not entirely what makes them involved in the story… yet.

The Key Event (15%)

The Key Event not only pushes your protagonist along their story line, but it’s when we see the protagonist take part in the story itself. There are still going through some mental gymnastics to decide whether to engage or not.

The First Plot Point (25%)

Your protagonist now knows what’s at stake and the First Plot Point is their first real decision to engage with the true story. This is where the plot of your story starts to take form and there’s no turning back for your protagonist. While they might have regrets or reflections on the “once-upon-a-time” before on this conflict started, there’s not going back to that time.

THE SECOND ACT

Entering A Brand New World (25%-35%)

This first step into the Second Act is like your protagonist is stepping into a whole new world. The journey has finally begun, after your character realized their turmoil in Act One and, after much debilitation, jumped into the Act Two.

This Brand New World faces your character with challenges they’ve never seen before, never had to deal or overcome. So, there is often failure on their part as they learn and navigate this new world. Because of this, there’s often conflict, whether internal or external, your protagonist must work through to persevere.

The First Pinch Point (35%)

While you might have hinted at your antagonist previously, this is where they finally make themselves known. This is the point where they remind your readers why they should take this antagonist seriously, and why your protagonist should too.

There’s often some sort of conflict at this point, where your protagonist fails or is forced to retreat and run away, presumably to fight another day.

The Midpoint (50%)

The Midpoint marks a turning point for your protagonist. One, much like the end of Act One, they can’t turn back from. The Midpoint is where your protagonist takes control of their story and drives the plot forward towards a resolution.

Of course, there’s still failure. But will a refueled determination they finally have tangible proof what they’re fighting against and what the stakes are.

The Second Pinch Point (65%)

While the First Pinch Point is where your protagonist is reminded what the stakes are. Your protagonist might grow cocky and think themselves able to overcome their antagonist, only to find out they haven’t yet found their weak spot to turn the tables in their favor and best their opponent.

This is likely where a second conflict arises and your protagonist fails once again.

The Third Plot Point (75%)

In the Third Plot Point, your protagonist feels all hope is lost. That their antagonist has already won and they’re unable to defeat them. The pace of the story tends to speed up here, as your character hits their low-point and before they hit they’re realization.

The realization sometimes happens in the Third Plot Point, and drives the story into the Third Act, which often describes the character finding a way in which to trick the antagonist into their weakness. Or, perhaps they haven’t realized the weakness yet, and are driven into the Third Act, where the tension builds and is released once they figure out how to defeat their opponent.

THE THIRD ACT

The Climax (75%-90%)

The Climax is all about ramping up the tension. In fantasy, this often ends with a big battle. This is where the tension pulses. It’s been building throughout your novel, and here is where we’re starting to see the bubble burst. But keep in mind, this isn’t where the bubble bursts entirely.

The protagonist and antagonist is pitted head to head and the stakes are increasing. This is where you give your reader the life-or-death scenario, and you’re encouraging your reader to root for your protagonist.

The Climax resembles a ticking time. Something is about to happen…

The Climactic Moment (90%)

The Climactic Moment is where the big thing happens. It’s the decisive moment. The moment your protagonist succeeds or succumbs to the antagonist.

This moment is all about answering the question presented in Act One. Will good defeat evil? Will the rebels defeat the empire? Will the boy get the girl? Whatever YOUR question was, whatever the incident that incited the story, the Climactic Moment it where you answer it.

The Resolution (90%-100%)

There’s always a calm after the storm. The Resolution is the sigh of relief after a fierce fight (even if only metaphorically). They’ve holding their breath, on the tips oft heir toes through the last 20% of your novel and this is where they get the release their held breath.

While this is where you can end your story, you might consider taking it a bit further and overcome the chore of figuring out how to go about living their normal life after everything they’ve been through. How will they recover from their journey with what they know now?

This might also be the time to hint at a sequel.

After completing the questions in this blog post you’ll have the basic structure of your story. Even if you change things later, having this foundation will help you knock out your first draft, which is often the hardest.

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