Turning Points – Part 3
by Michelle Janene
In my last couple of articles, I’ve been discussing the widely used three-act structure in writing. I have covered Act 1 which opens with The Disturbance, something that happens which is out of the ordinary for the main character (MC) and draws the reader into the story. The Inciting Incident comes at the end of the first act. Also referred to as the door of no return, it is that moment when the MC makes a decision that the changes everything.
Act 2 is about two-thirds of the story and full of obstacles for the MC and their companions. Both physical and emotional, the characters have to overcome, or survive, as they strive for the goal. Each challenge seems worse than the last and threatens physical, psychological, or professional death.
At about the midpoint, the MC takes a long hard look at themself and decides who they are going to be from this moment forward.
This then leads to the final third of the story. Act 3 is the climax and resolution.
The climax is the final impossible challenge. The last time to face off with the enemy (antagonist). It may be the final battle for the kingdom, or the hunt for the final piece of evidence that will solve the murder. The odds are: winning or death—the kingdom lost or the murderer escapes. The couple overcomes their differences and commit to one another or they go their separate ways.
This leads to the resolution. How does it all turn out in the end?
The queen finds her true calling and saves the kingdom, thereby instating reforms and helping her subjects thrive.
The cop uncovers a witness or evidence that proves the suspect’s guilt and they are arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced.
He accepts forgiveness, she overcomes her fears of the past repeating itself. Their wedding and years of marriage prove there is power in change, redemption, and restoration.
These two critical elements—climax and resolution—give the MC a chance to act out their decision from the mid-point and show the reader that the change has really taken root.
In the moment of reflection in Act 2, the queen chose to stand by the king and fight for the position she never wanted. In the climax, she is out on the battlefield using the power she has been given to save the king and his men. In the resolution, she is the queen and not even she questions that anymore.
In that reflective consideration, the detective vowed he would catch the man, at any cost, who killed a dozen local children. Later in the climax, he finds the clue he needs but can’t obtain it legally, so he speaks lies and plants evidence. In the resolution, he feels no guilt as he is fired and takes justice in his own hands killing the killer.
There are two common ways to write the final act when you are writing a series. One is to leave the final climax and resolution to the last book in the story. This is much like the season cliff-hangers that use to be popular on TV. The MC and their friends are left in great peril and the reader has to get the next book to see what happens. A segment of your readers will love this, while others will hate it.
The second option can be handled in one of two ways. One, reach a satisfying ending to the current dilemma for your MC and in the subsequent books have them face new challenges. Or after drawing the story to a close for the MC in book 1 continue the over all journey to an ultimate goal with different MCs in the next books.
Some series have completely unique stories that are all set in the same town, with the same peripheral characters. Many romance series use this, while readers find many familiarities each story stands on its own and can be read in any order.
However you choose to end your final act, make it a pay off for your readers. Make them glad they stayed up too late, and gave up that night out to finish the story they couldn’t put down and mourn the end of the series. Leave them wanting to spend more time with characters they have come to love and hate. What ever you do, don’t put in all the effort in the first part of the story and leave the reader with:
They all lived happily ever after.
About the Author
Michelle Janene lives and works in Northern California. Most days she blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind. She is a devoted teacher, a dysfunctional housekeeper, and a dedicated writer.
She released her first novella Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015. God’s Rebel came out in 2016, followed by Rebel’s Son and Hidden Rebel in 2017. She has been published in “Guide Post Magazine” and several anthologies. She leads two critique groups and is the founder of Strong Tower Press—Indie solutions for indie authors.
You can read Michelle’s column on the 3rd Tuesday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.