Lesson #5 of 10 (approx): It’s NOT Three Act Structure

A student could attend a lesson, the teacher writes “crime doesn’t pay” on the interactive whiteboard (probably with a permanent marker) and then student leaves nodding sagely.
However, we, as writers, need to dramatise this: so Alex thinks crime does pay and in a scene he mugs an old lady. He’s caught and has a particularly horrible time in prison. Finally, he gets out and is offered another chance to mug an old lady, but he decides against this and so we see that he has learnt his lesson.
Note that this is in three sentences (although the middle sentence could be much shorter with good behaviour) and the student attending a lesson is in three clauses.
So, can we at this point deduce Three Act Structure?
Well, not quite. There are one-act plays, plays with two acts and an interval, Shakespeare has five acts, some films are supposedly Five Act Structure, sitcoms have a two act shape… etc, etc. The word ‘Act’ here is unhelpful.
So, can we at least say “beginning, middle and end” as propounded by Aristotle?
We can!
However, may I suggest that we say “before, during and after”.
If you want to show all the stages of the process (i.e. communicate the theme), then you need to show the three stages: 1) ignorance, 2) learning and 3) wisdom. The important ones are the first and last. The middle (‘during’) is the act that flexes up and down. Learning can come with a smack round the head (sitcom), a lifetime of experience (Shakespeare) or anything in between.
Suggestion: it’s Before, (During) and After.


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