Writer Resources, Part II: The Three-act Structure and a Simple, Free Tool

The Writer’s Toolbox

The Purpose of this Post

Last week I introduced and posted a link to my Three-act Structure (Template). Feel free to download it and use it for your own writing.

There’s a lot in this sheet, so this week, I’m going over how to use this sheet and introduce a few resources I use to help fill it out.

My Previous Posts on the Three-act Structure (Template)

Firstly, this sheet uses the three-act, eight-sequence structure I’ve detailed in previous posts:

Books to Read: Textual References

This entire sheet is based on what I learned during my MFA and three books I’ve linked before, but there they are again:

My Writer’s Workspace

Three-Act Structure: Details Column

While some of these rows may seem straight forward, I’ll be touching on each of them briefly.

Chapter: Each chapter will most likely have multiple scenes, so I merge those cells together to create one chapter cell over each scene.

Stakes: This is based on Shawn Coyne’s method of breaking down scenes in The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know (22–23). Basically, the POV character either gains something or loses something in each scene: something positive or negative happens. This is connected to tension.

A scene may start with something negative happening (loss) and end with another negative (double loss). Or any of the combinations I have in the cell next to the title at the top of the sheet. Keeping track of this makes sure each of your scenes has a clear purpose and progresses the plot and character development.

Time and Date: The time and date are the exact times the events in the scene take place and the day upon which those times lie. My novels needs this level of detail because the characters are walking around the setting, and I need to make sure they avoid or coincide each other when necessary.

S/M Rise & S/M Set: These are Sun and Moon Rise and Sun and Moon Set. To maintain realism, I ensure I have these times and the phases of the moon correct within my novels. I use sunrisesunse.com. As far as the moon phases, for now, I simply copy and paste the correct image from the cell next to the title.

Weather: I also keep the weather of the specific days accurate. I note those details in this cell. I use almanac.com to determine that date’s weather in history. Due to my novels being supernatural horror, I don’t always have to stick to historical weather, but it’s a good guide.

Events: Now, I know there’s not much space here, but that’d deliberate. There only needs to be the most important, the most impacting events noted in each scene. Everything else is just chump change: get to the point, fill in the rest when you’re writing.

Color Coding & Additional Sheets: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Characters

I introduced character development in two, previous posts:

The tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet are those very cards I linked in Part II with some slight modifications.

Now, I color-code my character cards usually based on their eye, hair color, or a key characteristic associated with their personality. That color-coding matches the color-coding I use for each scene and chapter on the 3-act Structure sheet.

Know this, I write each of my chapters from a specific character’s POV. I don’t head-hop between characters, so color-coding the scenes, chapters, and character cards works for me. If you write your entire novel from the POV of one character, you wouldn’t use the color-coding.

I covered head-hopping and point of view in two previous posts:

Gender Identity: While most of the character card is self-explanatory, I’d like to take a look at the gender cell, which seems rather large; however, that space between the two symbols has a purpose.

When characterizing, I place my characters on a gender spectrum. I do this by placing a vertical bar (located at the top right of your keyboard: |) in the cell and simply spacing it over, with the spacebar, somewhere between the two gender symbols. For my purposes, this cell has nearly nothing to do with a character’s biology and has more to do with their identity.

My Next Post

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time this year. My goal is to write about 2,000 words a day. That’ll be tough. If I don’t get to 50,000 words in November, I’m not going to be bent out of shape: I’d rather write quality than quantity. However, as I’ve said in the past, it’s always good to have deadlines.

So, this means, again, I have no clue what I’m going to write because, quite frankly, I’m going to be insanely busy writing my next novel.

However, if you have any questions regarding this post or others, feel free to post those questions in the comments below or send me an email: chuck@chucklang.com.

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s