Seven Plot Structure. What is it, and how different is it from a Three-Act Play?
Three act plays have a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning can have a hook or an inciting incident, but it builds the ordinary world in which the character lives. The middle captures the character’s action and growth, which will build-up to the climax of the story (fifty percent of the story). Finally, Climax happens, and then it falls into the resolution and ties it all together (twenty-five percent of the story).
There is nothing wrong with that structure, but for new authors who want to impact their readers, you must break it down into more chewable parts. Why? You need a strong structure. I believe you need to understand the big chunk/Act 2 (the middle 50% of the story) without getting lost in your own words so-to-speak.
Ok. Here is the simple three-act play for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. However, think about the complexities in act 2 and see if you can keep it all straight and help your characters to develop:
Act 1: We are introduced to a world of wizards who know all about Harry and the miracle it was to survive He-who-must-
not-be-named, and yet his uncle and aunt treat him like dirt and are fearful of anything that is “not normal.” Harry is confined to sleep under the stairs and can never explain all the strange incidents that occur. (Here we are showing the ordinary world). Letters come by the thousands, and his Uncle takes the family and runs. However, Harry soon after receives a
letter inviting him to attend Hogwarts thanks to Hagrid busting into their house and giving it to him. This particular moment is the inciting incident or the call to adventure.
Act 2: Harry and his newly found friends officially enter the magical school, and their lives (especially Harry’s) are changed forever. We see the school as a crucial part of the story and all the teachers, friends, nemesis, and even antagonists. We know the fear of Snape, the Troll that causes damage and yet cements Ron, Harry, and Hermione’s
friendship. We are introduced to quidditch, see near death, discover more profound mysteries about the stone, and Harry also encounters Voldemort (the dark wizard who killed his parents) in the forest on school grounds.
Act 3: Harry and his friends have to sneak past the three-headed dog and complete numerous tasks and puzzles to try and stop Professor Snape from securing the Sorcerer’s stone. Ron has to sacrifice himself to all0w Harry to move on in the puzzling adventure. Climax Harry Finds out that another professor was trying to steal the stone, and Harry ends up killing him, and another near brush of death from Voldemort happens. Following this scene comes the resolution where we end the school year with Gryffindor winning the cup, Harry returns to the Dursley’s and next year’s school year awaits him.
On the surface, this feels like a summary of the story—sounds great—we have a beginning, middle, and end.
But I am worried; imagine if you are writing this. I start asking all of the following questions:
Is that enough structure of the plot to give you the complexities of the characters?
How do you know where to lead the reader without getting distracted or lost in the 30 plus characters that have been introduced?
Where is the troll’s action, the sleeping dog, Snape, the other professors, Ron, and Hermione taking us?
How are you building the characters’ dimensions with meaningful connections to the MC without distracting them away from Harry?
Would you know where to build up the tensions between the characters to propel the story forward or for the reader to really care about the next school year?
It’s possible, but as a new author, I think that the three-act structure is just not specific enough to really help the writer get to the place she needs to be. I find many authors want to quit or give up because they are lost.<