You Don’t Really Need a 3 Act Structure

But if you don’t have it, you need to provide some form of compensatory value to the reader.

To me, the 3 Act structure in fiction is a very powerful tool for developing conflict that’s never used. It’s like trying to ski down a mountain with one ski and no poles. Through moguls. Unless you know what you’re doing, it’s probably not going to work.

People read fiction for pleasure, period, end of discussion. Sometimes the pleasure comes from deep, existential insights of the characters. Sometimes it comes from the humor inherent in the story. It almost always comes from the excitement conflict creates.

How interesting is a person in real life who doesn’t want anything? How interesting is a person in a story that doesn’t want anything? Same thing.

Lay out the stakes for your character. What makes this day different from all the others they’ve experienced? What do they want, and what’s stopping them from getting it? Make your character interesting, and give them something to do.

Really, that’s all the 3 Act structure is. It’s not a formula for a good story so much as a loose blueprint for creating compelling conflicts.

The only real rule is you have to entertain your readers. If you do that, you’ve won.


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