The basics of storytelling - since ancient greece
Uppdaterat: 19 maj 2018
If you have an ideá for a novel or a film that you might want to turn into reality, it's important to know how to tell your story. A lot of potentially great stories turn into bad ones if not structured properly — Without some sort of guide, it's all just one big confusion. Luckily there is a guide and a structure -system that has been around for a very long time. Since ancient greece actually.
It's the structure of the three acts. The three acts basically lets you take your story and dividing it into three parts, for your story to become as good and structured as possible for your audience.
The parts are 1; setup 2; confrontation and 3; resolution.
By the way as a side note, I would say never adapt storytelling to these acts, just be as free as possible and get into a flow of creativity and then structure what you have into three parts. Rules such as this one with the three acts should never limit you, only help you. If it doesn't, discard it. But almost all movies have this structure and people recognize this pattern and it works. But there are various variations. A lot of them. The three acts also has a lot more components than is being covered here.
The setup gives us, the audience, a clear idea of what the movie or novel will be all about. We learn what type of world the story is all about and which type of characters that are living in it, and which one's are important. We get a taste of what the story is all about. If it is a fantasy movie like Harry Potter, it makes sense to introduce the concept of magic early on, In the setup. In that way, we know what the movie will be all about, and we know what is possible within that world. It lays the foundation of what's to come. If it is a superhero movie, we want to be introduced to superhero abilities early on. If we think we are watching a love dramafilm and all of a sudden the main character takes of to the sky flying half-way through the movie without some sort of introduction to the superhero element, the film would
lose credibility very fast and the audience would be confused, to say the least. In the setup, we also get a taste of the conflict which will be playing out throughout the story.
An Example: In The lion king we are introduced to the lion kingdom. We get to see Simba and Mufasa. We see their close relationship. We get a glimpse of how vicious Scar is. We see how curious Simba is. All this builds up to the next act where the real trouble begins. The setup leads us to Act 2;
After everything is set up, it is time to throw your Character into the adventure. The character fights something, an antagonist(a movies willain) or a problem. This whole act is really the battle. One minute the protagonist(the ''hero'' or maincharacter) has control, the next the antagonist has the control. This creates tension. With rising tension, your audience will begin to ask questions. Will he make it? How will this end? The protagonist doesn't have to fight a villain but in any novel or film, the protagonist will need some sort of goal and some sort of obstacle. It could be internal or external. Or just one or both.(more on this later.) Without this, everything would be a walk in the park for the character and it would be very boring to watch. Act 2 is also usually the longest part and it is where all the drama plays out. Act 2 is a rollercoaster of events that leads to act 3; resolution.
Using the lion king as a further example of Act 2: Scar is successful in his plan to lure Simba and when Mufasa comes to rescue, it all goes wrong and Mufasa dies. Here is where the real conflict of the movie starts to play. Will Simba retake the throne? Simba feels regrets and fights against returning, meanwhile the other lions are suffering under Scars ruthless dictatorship.
In the resolution act, the protagonist either wins or loses the battle. He or she often wins. We know that. So your job here is really to convince the audience that there is a possibility that the protagonist could lose. But in general, in act 3, things get heated. The conflict really intensifies to the point where it becomes inevitable with a direct confrontation that resolves the conflict.
Example: Simba finally fights off with Scar, in an intense battle where it looks like he could
lose. Things get heated but eventually Simba wins and takes back his kingdom.
Now. One thing about this structure. There is a lot more to know about it. I am only covering the basics here. Also remember this is a guide, not rules. It's there to help you organize your story. If you're interested in more about the three acts and how to structure your story I highly recommend the book; Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success and really all other books by the Author K. M Weiland, She writes incredible books on the subject.
My take on this is that one should think outside the box as much as possible and not limit oneself. However, sometimes old truths is applicable. This is one of these cases. The three act system is really necessary for good story structure. Hope you enjoyed reading and good luck with your stories and remember, only use what you yourself finds working.
Daniel Nordström Salafranca