When you hear the word acts when talking about a story, often a play comes to mind, but the same concept can be applied to both fiction and non-fiction. The only thing is, when we are taught the “plot structure” in school, it’s very different.
To me this plot structure made no sense, mainly because I found it very limiting. Especially since some stories have multiple “climaxes” with only “rising actions” between them, and it also doesn’t address the idea of subplots in any form. The act structure is much more flexible for how your story actually works.
Here is a breakdown of the act structure that I use when I’m working on a story:
Act One: The Set Up
Much like the beginning of the Basic Plot Structure, this is the act of your story where you introducing the world of your story to the reader. The setting, your main character, all that good stuff. This is also where you hook your reader in and show them that reading your story is worth their while. When you are outlining it’s okay to write down what gets introduced here, but think about how to introduce it as well.
Act Two: The Trigger
While in the first act you create a hook to pull your readers in, this act is meant to keep them going. In this act, the inciting event of your plot occurs. The main character is sent on their quest and possibly your antagonist is introduced. From here you are also building the world more and are also adding suspense slowly.
Act Three: The Build Up
Suspense is key in this act! Important clues are to be found and your main character is getting much closer to what they are going to be fighting against. Here you can also introduce minions of the antagonist. You can also use this time to introduce a subplot if you want to.
Act Four: The Climax/Reveal
This is an act that can occur multiple times during your story. Here it can be either a battle or a reveal, but it has to be important and create a big impact. Main plot will take precedence here over the subplot and must either lurch forward or make your reader stop for a moment to take it in.
Act Five: The Hunt
Once the problem of the plot, or the antagonist themselves, is revealed the hunt begins for the solution/magical item/ritual to go after them. The pieces are starting to come together as the main character goes on their journey.
Act Six: The Boss Battle
Here the antagonist has become solid to the main character and the final confrontation begins. All of the suspense building has come to a point and a real outward conflict occurs. This can be verbal, physical, or even magical depending on the type of story you are going for.
Act Seven:Tie Up Loose Ends
The conflict is resolved and the plot is beginning to slow down. All of the final pieces are coming into place. The characters are getting a chance to breathe and start seeing how much they’ve changed over the course of the story. If you have any subplots to conclude now is the time to do it.
Act Eight: Go Home
The change has been fully realized and life has gone back to normal. The reader also gets their closure and are supposed to feel satisfied with the ending, unless you are writing a series then it’s okay to leave them hanging until the next book.