Writing a novel

The other way to structure your novel

Although the most commonly used structure comes in 3 acts, I picked this version up from a session at the Winchester Writers Conference a few years ago. The traditional 3 act structure is compiled of:

          • Act 1
          • Act 2
          • Midpoint
          • Act 2 (Cont.)
          • Act 3

In movie terms, this is Star Wars Episode IV.

Having a big stretch of one act in the middle encourages my characters in wandering round and accomplishing nothing until the climax.  4 acts help to clearly differentiate the middle:

          • Act 1
          • Act 2
          • Midpoint
          • Act 3
          • Act 4

I.e. Jaws.

Okay, on paper it’s a rose by another name. But, this little deceit tricks my brain into working harder on that second half. Things happen. Which is apparently important…. There’s also such a thing as a nine act structure, but that might be five steps too far.

There’s a great hybrid version of this structure over at The Scherer Joy of Writing. Adding in that extra fourth act splits soggy middles in half. Screenplays and movies are ridiculously useful at examining structure and breaking down what works. Yet another reason to order pizza and veg out in front of the tv (like I need a reason).

What kind of structure do you use?

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