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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Four-Act Structure: The Ascendance

Ah - my own little Valentine...

Belzecue said...

Julie, I could kiss you on your cupcakes for giving four-act structure a shout-out. You've visited my site so you know what a four-act nutcase I am, and how keen I am to eighty-six the three-act model.

You know, Belz, I agree that the 3-act model is outdated and outmoded. In addition, I had a conversation with a manager a few months ago who quite candidly told me that he likes to see the first major plot point by page 20. Page 20?? So where did the first act go? It led to an interesting discussion of the relatively indisputable fact that our viewing habits have changed. Audiences want more giddy-up and go in their movies. Heck, you're asking them to spend two hours watching your movie - they can go watch something for 5 minutes on You Tube and be perfectly happy. Well, come on, it's not the same, that's quite an exaggeration. But there's a point in there somewhere.

Oh yes, - the point - the 3-act structure is outdated, I agree. I haven't used it for years. It straps you in to a slower set-up, an interminable second act and too many pages overall. The 4-act structure, in my experience, parses the material down just a bit and does away with the age-old struggle to FILL the middle of the movie with something interesting. Course, that points to a different problem altogether, and one that is pretty common in new writers - they're all idea (setup) and cool ending (third act) but don't have a story with legs strong or interesting enough to actually spend any time in-between.

In my mind, the 4-act structure is not complicated; in fact it's less complicated as long as you keep that midpoint smack dab in the middle, as a pivotal moment in your narrative, the good ol' point of no return as I think Vogler/Campbell calls it. Or is that the cave? God, that book messed with my mind for years. Stupid chalice. And with that shout out to lovely Belzecue and the 4-act structure, I leave you Wavers to enjoy your weekend mightily. I know I will.

ShowHype: hype it up!

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