Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Writing in Three Acts

Writing in Three Acts

st_patricks_day_graphics_04 Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

No sales, no income, no weight loss since yesterday. I did get a few things done:

  • Finished clearing off and organizing my office desk, but I still have a huge ton of papers piled on the floor so I have a ways to go.
  • Got most of my data into TurboTax, but I have a really hard time believing it’s calculating correctly…especially when I added a deduction and my rebate got smaller. Something’s not right there.
  • I thought I had decided to hold off buying a Netbook for now…even though they can be bought for as little as $200, I didn’t feel they’ve reached the minimal level of performance to not drive me crazy. However this morning I’ve had a change of heart when I realized that if someone boosts my laptop when I’m out running or riding, I’d rather lose a $200 POS laptop than my $2000 home laptop.
  • Walked the dog. Okay I know that’s not exciting, but it makes a better bullet point than unclogging a toilet which is my only other accomplishment aside from laundry.
  • Watched 24. I really like the new season, it’s as outrageous and impossible as ever, and of course they keep killing off the best characters but that’s to be expected.

Now on to the meat of the post. I’m getting to the point in The Immortals where I feel like I’m close to the end of the First Act.

So what is the First Act? I haven’t really studied this format extensively but I’ll just go with how I understand it. Almost every movie you see in the theater, every drama on TV, even sporting events can be divided into three acts. In the first act, you’re introduced to the characters and you see how they react to situations. You’re introduced to the premises of the work, the settings, and everything you need to know about the background of the events. The First Act usually concludes when the main character makes his first big choice. It’s the moment when he realizes his life is forever altered, and he must act in some way to make sense of his world, to restore what was lost, to right things that went wrong etc. For example, in the original Star Wars movie, this moment happens when Luke finds his home destroyed and his aunt and uncle are dead. At that moment you find out everything you need to know about him, that he will fight the bad guys and leave his agrarian life behind.

In the Second Act, the characters face one after another hardship as their choices become harder and harder to sustain. They find themselves “in it” for the long term. The bad guys usually run roughshod through the second act, doing all their nasty evil business and making the main characters’ lives hard. The characters learn about themselves and acquire the skills they need to combat their foes. The Second Act usually concludes with another choice the main character needs to make, this time the choice is much harder. In Star Wars, I would say that Obi Wan’s death by Darth Vader is this moment, when Luke realizes he’s the only person standing in the way of the Empire, the only person who can save the galaxy from destruction. The Shit has Hit the Fan at this moment.

In the Third Act, you have the dramatic climax and resolution. Everything should be downhill, except it should look like everything’s going down the toilet…unless…unless somehow the hero can summon their inner strength to do that one final act, to defeat the bad guy at his own game, to rescue the princess, to stop the terrorists, to win her love, to win the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, to reveal the conspiracy, to blow up that stupid Death Star and send Darth Vader hurling into space.

In The Immortals, my main character Jake is still nowhere near that moment of “whoa…this world is really messed up and I need to do something.” He still doesn’t have a driving motivation where he’ll be forced to act…he just doesn’t know enough yet after 51K words of writing. Of course what I’m saying is that I don’t really know enough yet to set him on a new course. There is his mother’s death, and the knowledge of who she really is. Maybe I can use that event to give him some motivation. I’m still developing the main conflict of the story, so it looks like I’ll be in the First Act for a little while longer.

Diet Tip of the Day:

Drinking lots and lots of beer for St. Patrick’s Day is not the best use of your daily allotment of calories. However, drinking an occasional beer, especially a dark, thick, unfiltered beer is actually a very nutritious beverage. Also Guinness is one of the lowest-calorie non “lite” beers out there, so I highly recommend it.

1 comment:

  1. I like that your title implies connecting writing to a play, that a written piece is completed not in one sitting, but that it has breaks, and that it is divided into acts. - Layce of royal essay.


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