Creative Writing Project: Write Act 3 | Dani and Steve Alcorn | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Three Act Structure


    • 3.

      Act 3 Checkpoints


    • 4.

      Project: Create Your Third Act


    • 5.

      Next Steps


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About This Class

The Creative Writing Project series helps you complete a novel, short story or screenplay. Each class focuses on a specific step in the creative process, from brainstorming to publication. The goal is to get you published!

This class shows you how to complete your story’s Act 3, beginning with a plan that leads to the exciting climax, and the resolving loose threads in the ending. When you complete this class and the previous two, you will have a detailed, written plan for your entire Creative Writing Project.

The classes in this series include:

  • Creative Writing Project: Brainstorm Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Character
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 1
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 2
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 3
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure a Scene
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Setting
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Great Dialogue
  • Creative Writing Project: Energize Your Manuscript
  • Creative Writing Project: Publish Your Book
  • Creative Writing Project: Market Your Book

Meet Your Teacher

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Dani and Steve Alcorn

Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors


Steve Alcorn is the author of many novels and non-fiction books. His publications include mysteries, young adult novels, a romance novel, children's books, history and non-fiction about theme park design, and the writer's guide How to Fix Your Novel.

Dani Alcorn is the Chief Operating Officer of Writing Academy, a writing instructor, and author of Young Adult fiction, screenplays, and a screenwriting handbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northwestern University, where she majored in Psychology and Radio, Television, & Film.

Steve and Dani have helped more than 50,000 aspiring authors structure their novels. Many of their students are now published authors.

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to the creative writing project. I'm Steve Alcorn, your instructor and mentor. These classes air all about projects. They're all about creating your own original novel, short story or screenplay step by Step one project at a time. The ultimate goal of this course is by the time you've completed these projects, you'll be ready to publish. I'm the author of a number of novels, travel books, Children's books, nonfiction books about the theme park industry and the book How to Fix Your Novel, which tells you all about the techniques you'll use to structure and create your own original work of fiction. It's techniques that will draw upon throughout this class in order to achieve your ultimate goal of getting into print. So let's get started. The creative writing project. This lesson is all about writing Act three. In this overview, I'll introduce you to the topics in the following Lessons will begin with some key concepts reviewing three act structure. Then we'll take a look at the Act three checkpoints These air the different emotional and physical points that your protagonist must progress through to get from the beginning to the end of Act three and then in the project section, you'll have an opportunity to structure your own Act. Three in the final lesson. I'll show you some next steps to further your writing career, so let's get started. 2. Three Act Structure: well, welcome to Act Three. We've now gotten through Act One and act to. If you haven't looked at those projects yet, please go back and do so because it will be important as a foundation for this lesson in this project, we're going to create your third act, which consists of the three checkpoints, the plan, the climax in the ending. So we're at the very top of the ascending, rising action and act to when your protagonist had an epiphany and realized what her flaw was and that she could change. And now we can enter Act three with a plan. The 1st 1 may not work, but eventually will come up with one that does and will achieve that climax and then finally will find some resolution in the ending. So let's take a look at those three checkpoints in detail in Act three and see how they'll work for you. 3. Act 3 Checkpoints: Act three is usually the most fun act to right. I think it's fun to get started in the hook, but everything from there on tends to be a lot of work, and if you've got a good plan, you can minimize the work. But Act three, I find, often writes itself. And so let's take a look at the three elements of Act three, the plan that your protagonist makes, the climax where the antagonised is defeated and Theo ending where things are resolved. So, beginning first with the plan, What can your protagonist now do that she couldn't do before she changed in the epiphany at the end of Act two? That's the question to act. Ask yourself, and the plan is going to be all plot. It's going to be a physical thing that she decides to do an action. She decides to take dialogue she decides to have with somebody a place she decides to go something. It's some sort of a scheme that she comes up with as a result of having changed now. This might not happen instantly, and in fact, in some books I can think of the plan can be quite long because the first plan doesn't work , the 2nd 1 doesn't work. The 3rd 1 almost works but doesn't quite work. And sometimes none of the plans really work. But they put her in a position where, in the climax, Sheikhoun, suddenly just from the seat of our pants, make a new plan that does work. So she's a very different person, a more active character, perhaps in a more effective character now in the plan as a result of the change that happened at the end of Act two. So the plan definitely needs to be something that your protagonist could not have done before. She changed in that epiphany, and the plan might not work, but there might be several that don't work. But when one finally does, the antagonised will be defeated. However, we mentioned that at the end of Act two, if the protagonist didn't have an epiphany or if she realized what was her flaw but is unable to really overcome it, Or perhaps she temporarily overcame it but relapses somewhere here in Act three. Then you're writing a tragedy, and that's when none of the plans work because she didn't really change. So let's assume that she did change. And in the climax, let's see what happens. Well, the protagonist is active because you don't want the cavalry to suddenly come in and rescue her. She's got to solve her own problem Now. That doesn't mean that she has got a suddenly grab an Uzi and shoot down the antagonist if that's out of character. But she needs to have contributed to her own victory, even if its just by making a phone call to the right person at the right time in order to get help. She needs to be the active character, not just someone who looks out in the climax. And it's also important that when the antagonised is defeated in this climax, it is because of the antagonists own flaw that really helps to drive home your theme. And if you're antagonised had a flaw that was related to your protagonist flaw, it creates this marvelous contrast between what happens if someone overcomes if law versus what happens if someone doesn't overcome a flaw. Now, what if you're writing Ah love story? What if the antagonised is actually the love interest? Well, then the defeat is simply being shown to be wrong or being convinced to change. The antagonist essentially is then rehabilitated, if you will, and that's a softer sort of unending that is ideal for that softer type of a story. But remember that you have to keep the protagonist sympathetic, not just in those softer stories, but also in a harder story. The protagonist can't just ambush the antagonist and shoot them in the back. That makes the protagonist instantly not sympathetic. There needs to be a confrontation. It needs to be sparked by the protagonist, and the antagonised needs to be defeated by his own flaw. For example, if the protagonist lacks self confidence and the antagonised is overconfident, that's a wonderful relationship. But then you can't have the protagonist overcome their flaw, become confident, going to cost the antagonised and kill him. It just doesn't work. It's not sympathetic. But if the protagonist overcomes her flaw, a costs, the antagonised and the antagonised is overconfident and relies upon his henchman, who now see that in fact, the antagonist is a jerk and protagonist is right, and they helped to defeat the antagonised. That really reinforces your theme, and it keeps your protagonist as a sympathetic character so the antagonists defeat needs to be consistent with the weight of the story. If it's a romantic comedy, his defeat is that he looks silly for a few minutes, and then the protagonist for gives him if the antagonised is Hitler than he probably needs to die at the end of the story. So the weight depends upon how awful a person he, waas and the antagonist can be rehabilitated. Even if it's not a love story. The antagonised could realize once defeated what they're flaw waas and decide to change. But it's important that they not change before they're defeated, because that's the contrast between changing and not change. So it's fine to have the protagonist help the antagonist to reform in the end. And there are many examples in literature of this happening. And finally in the ending, this is where things get resolved. It's just a cooling off period for your readers. After all that frenetic action, there's now this cathartic moment where tension is released. So how do we handle the ending? Well, there's lots of ways to show that resolution. You could create a circular ending. This is an effective literary technique where things are much the same as they were at the very beginning of the story. They've either returned to normal or they've returned to normal with a somewhat of a contrast. On the other hand, there could be a complete reversal. The protagonist might have started out the story in poor condition and ended in good condition. Whether that's an emotional change or physical change or both, it's up to you. There can be a bittersweet ending as well. Not necessarily. Everything that happened in the climax is a good thing. There could have been unexpected casualties. There could have been, ah, worse ending for the antagonised than was anticipated, where the protagonist might not have gotten everything that they wanted. Remember, the protagonists probably had a goal at the very outset of Act One as well. And perhaps that goal became less important as things went on and the goal for the greater good was achieved. But perhaps the protagonists own goal in a bittersweet way, was not achieved. The ending can also be left open. You need to be careful with this. Readers can imagine how things turn out themselves, but if they feel like you haven't given them enough guidance so that they can imagine the ending they want. Then they might become upset, so it's best to give them a few hints as to the direction things go after the end of the story. You can also end with a cliffhanger. This technique is best used if you're going to write a second volume to follow the 1st 1 and you want to make sure that readers well read it. However, the cliffhanger can't be that the story itself didn't get resolved. You can stretch a story over a couple of volumes if you want, but then don't fool yourself that the first volume is a complete story. If you want to write a complete story in the first volume, you need to have all nine checkpoints. So even if you then create an additional event that causes a cliffhanger at the end, it's something that is moving the story on into its next stage and induces readers to buy that next volume. You can have a twist in the ending, something unexpected, and that's one of the more delightful ways to end. O. Henry made a career of writing very ironic endings to his story and those air somewhat out of style now. But you can have a twist where something unexpected happens, particularly if that unexpected thing leads to good results. And finally, there could be a revelation in the story. Something revealed maybe the answer to a story question that has been going all the way through the book since that first hook, and it's finally answered. That could be a really satisfying thing for readers to discover at the very end of the story. And finally, you can end with a monologue where the main character addresses the reader and some things up and says how the story has affected them and how to move on. If you choose to do that, be careful that it doesn't end up a little bit too much on the telling versus showing side . Sometimes I think it's better to just let readers come to their own conclusions. And speaking of conclusions, now let's move on to the project of this course, and you'll have a chance to draw your own conclusions as you structure your Act three 4. Project: Create Your Third Act: No, it's time for you to create your third act, so I'd like you to open up a file, and in it I'd like you to type three headings for the plan. The climax and the ending Now, in between each of those headings, I would like you to write a single sentence that describes concisely that checkpoint. You'll need to use a little bit more plot than you did in previous acts because Act three is mostly plot, but try to leave out the details. Keep it a short sentence so you can change it later. Now, in between each of those checkpoints, turn that short sentence into a bullet list right down the scenes that you'll need for each of those three checkpoints. You're probably need in your about 1/3 as many scenes as you had for Act two. But this convey area lot. An action adventure novel could be largely Act three, so you'd even have more scenes than in Act two, and some stories wrap up very quickly so you might have very few scenes. If there's not very many loose ends to tie up, it's all up to you. But I would say that probably having a few scenes in the plan, and a few scenes in the climax is a good start for your Act three structure. Later on, you'll write your manuscript. You can edit it right in between the scene markers that you've inserted. But first, I'd like you to proceed to the lesson on scenes and find out how to write those, and then you'll be ideally positioned to write your menus. 5. Next Steps: thanks for joining me on this journey. I've enjoyed it and I hope you have to. Thing is one of a dozen different projects that are available through this series, of course, is if you follow all of these projects from brainstorming all the way to marketing, you'll be able to bring your idea for a novel, short story or screenplay to reality, step by step and project by project. In the meantime, I hope you'll follow us on Facebook and be sure to sign up for free writing tips. I look forward to seeing you there. Until then, happy writing.