The Three Act Structure, Part II: Chapters and Scenes 1

Tools and Techniques

Firstly, it’s been a month since I last posted. I had to put my blog on hold while my family and job as an English teacher and now a teacher of my own children took precedence during this pandemic.

So, let’s continue where I left off.

In my last post, I introduced a synopsis of the three-act structure. Recall that we were looking at a 400-page novel and how it could be broken down into the three-act structure through a series of acts, sequences, chapters, and scenes.

As the title to this post suggests, we’re going to take a look at how Chapters and Scenes work together.

But first, a quick review.

A Quick Review

Above is the same image from my last post that breaks the novel down into a table where a writer may plan out Acts, Scenes, and Chapters for their novel.

Act I encompasses pages 1 to 100, Act II is pages 101 to 300, Act III is pages 301 to 400.

Each act has two to four sequences. A sequence is about 10 scenes that comprise a series of events and end with a set piece—a climactic scene that in an action movie would be a chase or shootout.

The set piece at the end of the first sequence is typically the inciting incident that kicks off the main conflict and draws the Central Character into the adventure.

The set piece at the end of each act is usually something special. At the end of Act I, the Central Character is committed or has the desire to go on his or her adventure.

Defining a Scene

Steven Shoen in his book The Truth About Fiction defines a scene as “a single unit of time at a single place with a distinct cast of characters. When the time, place, or people change significantly, we start a new scene.” (114) A scene is not narrative.

Other Terms Defined

You’ll noticed under the “Climax” column in the image above, several terms are left undefined. Those terms will be the focus of future posts.

My Next Post

In my next post, The Three Act Structure, Part II: Chapters and Scenes 2, I’ll be going over the specifics of scenes and how they fit into chapters from my own layout of my next novel, CHRONICLES OF A WITCH-HUNTER.

Author: Chuck Lang

Chuck Lang is a writer of science fiction and horror. Influenced by his years as a carpenter, four years serving in the US Navy, and his fifteen years teaching literature, he holds an MFA in Writing (Fiction) from Lindenwood University. After completing his first manuscript, the supernatural horror novel DEAD GODS, in 2019, he has begun work on its two sequels, DEAD GODS: INHERITANCE and DEAD GODS: RESOLUTION. He is currently developing two additional projects, an urban fantasy horror novel and a military science fiction novel. He lives and writes near the frequently flooded Red River in Fargo, ND with his wife and two redhead sons.

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