I've wrapped up a few chapters in the last two nights. As I closed off this last one I realized that my outline from here on isn't anywhere near as detailed as it was leading up to this point until I get to the finale. The balance of time between the viewpoint characters is terribly lopsided, and I have a LOT (and I really mean a LOT) of the Third Act to flesh out.
About that. The Three Act Structure, it's a common theme used in movies and books, and generally iterates between separate levels of story. In a trilogy, that pinnacle of modern story-telling you end up with a Twelve Act Structure. Look, it works, follow me on the math here:
Book 1 = 3 Acts. Book 2 = 3 Acts. Book 3 = 3 Acts. Therefore Book 1 + Book 2 + Book 3 = 9 Acts correct?
Now consider that there's a larger structure. Book 1 = Act 1, Book 2 = Act 2, Book 3 = Act 3. Those Three Acts added onto the previous Nine gives you a Twelve Act structure.
Alright, now that I'm done boosting word count on my blog with pointless mathematics, here's my take on the Three Act Structure.
Act 1: The Setup (A New Hope). This is where you set the overall stage. You can build characters backgrounds and competence and set the overall story up. They may even try to resolve the main problem, but they will fail, which leads into...
Act 2: Where Everything Goes to 11 (Empire Strikes Back). This is where you ramp up the tension and start picking up steam. Your characters start learning some lessons, picking themselves up off the floor a bit and making some progress only to have it all come crashing down at the end and driving straight into...
Act 3: The Ceiling Comes In (Return of the Jedi). This is the final Act, the crescendo if you will. This is where everything goes catastrophically wrong and forces the characters to take the initiative and go beyond. If your characters have been passive up until this point, this is where the rubber meets the road, and just about any other metaphor you can throw out there for that ultimate last push that wins the day.
To summarize, I think Howard Taylor said it best on Writing Excuses:
Act 1: Chase the heroes up the tree.
Act 2: Throw stones at them.
Act 3: Cut down the tree.
So, I need to flesh out my outline for the Third Act as it was the part most devastated by this revision. I spent about an hour getting started on that this evening. My mindmap has enough cross-node links on it at this point that it's starting to resemble a fractal. I can only hope I'm not tearing any new holes in my plot that I'll have to clean up in the next pass. I'm sure I'll let you know!
Alpha Readers: I don't have anything too new for you just yet. I want to finish this run on the main viewpoint character then I'll make some selections for you all to go over that won't give too much away just yet. I have a choice scene in mind right now that I think you'll either enjoy or roll your eyes at.