4 Act versus 3 Act

Come here to ask questions or give advice about the theory that forms the basis of Dramatica.
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4 Act versus 3 Act

Postby Pieta » Oct 31, 2010 1:01 pm

I've put together the throughlines of my story into 4 Acts, which seems logical with the Dramatica system. Problem is, I've always written in the 3 Act structure, had it nailed into my plotting habits. I like the 3 Act structure. Does anyone have a suggestion on how to convert the neat 4 Act structure into 3 Acts? I'm also wondering -- In the 4 Act structure, should I end up keeping it, which Act would the story climax in? It seems logical it would climax at the end of Act 3, pushing the story into resolution/denoument into and including all of Act 4. And are there 4 climaxes in the story, one for each throughline? If there are, isn't there a danger of an anticlimax happening, which would deplete the main climax of its energy? I would appreciate anone's input into this.

Another problem I have is exploration of the four types of each throughline. I tend to analyze each of the 4 types in each throughline equally, jotting down notes and even narrative/dialogue as I proceed. So it's hard for me to see type 1, say developing a plan, as being the exposition of the story; then type 2, playing a role, as the development of the inciting incident/conflict; and then type 3, becoming, as building up to an epiphany or climax; then Act 4, Conceiving, as the denoument. Since I explore each individually, looking into the variations in each type to uncover/mine it for dramatic potential, I have a hard time seeing the four types as a progressional/linear sequence of events that build into a climax. This is opposite of my style of writing, which is pounding the Protagonist with an assult of issues until he decides to stand up and fight, exploding into action just when needed at the climax. I write suspense fiction usually, the Main Character a 'be-er', but very active (sometimes desperate) mentally/spiritually in seeking an answer to his/her problem(s). So how do I keep the story from deflating as I visualize the four types of each throughline seperate from each other and equal until the end of the writing process?

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Chris Huntley
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Re: 4 Act versus 3 Act

Postby Chris Huntley » Nov 02, 2010 11:17 am

The traditional 3 Act structure has a short first act, a long second act (divided in the center by the midpoint), and a short third act. If you divide Act 2 into two parts, 2A and 2B separated by the midpoint, you end up with four Acts labeled Act 1, Act 2A, Act 2B, and Act 3. This is the same as Act 1 (Signpost 1), Act 2 (Signpost 2), Act 3 (Signpost 3), and Act 4 (Signpost 4). Therefore, translation should not be a problem.

Act 4 would never be the denoument. The denoument happens AFTER the story is over. It is a way for the author to tell the audience exactly what happened -- after the fact -- and possibly indicate what the fallout might be.

Here is an image of the Michael Hauge approach to 3 Act structure:

Here is the Dramatica 4 Act structure equivalent:

Note that the Dramatica 4 Act structure is the PLOT version of the structure, not the STORYWEAVING version. The Storyweaving version lets the author shift around the exact location of the story points so that they are not as "mechanical" as the Plot version. Most traditional plot structures do not make the distinction between plot and storyweaving.
Chris Huntley
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