Aristotle described story structure as such, “A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end.” As uninspiring as that may seem, this is the foundation upon which all good storytelling is built: the three-act structure.
If you’re a writer and you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’ve heard about the three-act structure ad nauseum. I can remember my kindergarten teacher going over it in class—and, while I’m thinking about it, thank you for that!—and revisiting it almost every year during school. Odds are, you’ve been exposed to it just as heavily. But how many writers really understand the three-act structure?
There’s countless writing books that expound on it. Blake Snyder may be remembered for the storytelling techniques and beat structures he proposed in Save the Cat, but in that book, he also gave a fairly concise method for outlining screenplays with index cards using the three-act structure. I believe that before any writer can make use of tools like Snyder’s beat sheet or even outline effectively, they must first understand the fundamentals of storytelling structure: the basic three-act structure.
A while back, I was fortunate enough to discover S.J. Murray’s wonderful book, THREE ACT WHAT? As a student of writing for nearly two decades, I found myself highlighting passages and taking notes like crazy.
Who is S.J. Murray? She’s an emmy-nominated screenwriter, Hollywood story consultant, and professor at Baylor University—trust me, this book is well worth reading, and it’s priced at only $4.99.
Thanks both to her generosity and the generosity of her publishers, Livingston+McKay, I have a promo code for a copy of Three Act What that to give away on Friday, July 4th, 2014. This is an interactive ebook published on the Snippet platform, and can be read in a web browser or on a tablet. Some of the best features about this book are the videos included at periodic intervals, either expanding on the subject of the chapter or expanding on the craft of writing itself.
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post, on my Facebook, or send a reply to me on Twitter—BEFORE MIDNIGHT July 3rd, 2014—telling me how a better understanding of story structure would improve your writing. The best responses will be put in a random drawing and I’ll announce a winner on Friday, July 4th, 2014. I’m seriously excited for whoever wins because I know it will help you become an even better writer.