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Monday, February 9, 2015

The Three Act Model: Part 1

So I've decided to do a three part post. I can keep you all waiting for the second and third ones, and also have an idea of what the heck I'm going to write about for the next two weeks.

Have you ever heard the saying "In Act 1, get your character up a tree. In Act 2, throw rocks at him, and in Act 3, get him down again?" It seems to be a pretty easy way to describe how to write the three parts of a book.

Without further ado, here's my opinions on what should happen in act one.

In act one, get your character up a tree.

This also includes showing your character before you put them up the tree in the first place. Examples of this include showing Bilbo peacefully in Hobbiton or John Watson living in an apartment by himself.

This doesn't always happen, though, for example, in Maze Runner, the book opens with Thomas in the box, wondering what in the name of all sanity is happening. I like to see a bit of normal life beforehand, but not too much. Otherwise, it's boring. Really boring.

An example of what not to do comes from the movie Benji. I was forced to sit through it and I hated every minute of it. Don't get me wrong, it was cute, but it took over 20 minutes for there to be even a hint of conflict. A good rule of thumb, at least for me, is to have approximately a chapter, maybe two at the most, of normal life. But if you're going to add normal life in, make sure it means something.

Going back to Bilbo in Hobbiton, showing his normal life beforehand gave us a look into Bilbo's personality. We learn that he loves his simple life and doesn't really want anything different, thank you very much.
It's a good way to show that he will be climbing up a very tall 'tree.' Poor guy.

The second step in getting your character up the tree is to give him a reason to climb it.  For example, John Watson needed a flatmate. Enter Sherlock Holmes, his motivation to climb the tree. Sherlock Holmes drags Watson into all sorts of adventures, and we get a glimpse into Watson's personality. Even though he's a retired soldier, his craving for adventure is far from gone. It is, in fact as strong as ever.

Finally, your character is up the tree. He or she has a problem. They're trapped up the tree and they can't get down.
Next week, I'll teach you how to throw really good rocks at him.
I can't think of a reason to post this picture of me in my Winter Soldier jacket, so here it is because I love it and I want you all to see.

 Here it is.
I don't want to put on the makeup.
I'll show you all if I do.

How do you put your characters up trees? Do you put your characters normal lives in your stories? Have you ever read a book or watched a movie where there was too much normal life?

-Ranger The Winter Soldier