The 4-Act-Structure: Introduction

 

As almost all the plotters would swear by, outlining a story helps a writer greatly in making sense of the story for the readers. We, as writers, know what our story is and how it plays out, the difficult bit is to put in into words in a systematic way and have it make sense to its readers the same way that it does for us. And this is where the story structures come into play.

I used to consider myself a hardcore plotter until I finally realised that I’m more of an intuitive person who writes by the seat of her pants as much as I rely on planning my stories. So now I try to find a balance between pantsing and plotting. And I personally see story structures as an adventurer’s maps – you can have all the adventures you want to have by following your intuition, but occasionally you need the maps to take you where you want to go, especially when you get lost or stuck.

I used the 3-Act Structure for plotting my first novel, Deceived, but for my second and third manuscripts, I needed something more extensive as they are more complex than my earlier work, so I used the 4 Act Structure. In this article, I’ll be introducing the 4-Act Structure and its benefits and use. If you wish to know more about the 3-Act Structure then you can read the following articles I wrote a while ago:


The 4-Act-Structure: Introduction

the 4-act structure

What is the 4-Act Structure?

The 4-Act Structure is basically the broader version of the 3 Act Structure in which the elaborate ‘middle’ is broken into two separate acts. This method is very popular among writers especially those who write lengthy novels and the ones who struggle with the ‘infinite middle.’

  • Act-1: Setup of conflict
  • Act-2: Build-up
  • Act-3: Crises
  • Act-4: Resolution

Here’s a simple diagram to depict the 4-Act Structure:

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What are the advantages of using the 4-Act Structure?

There are many advantages to using the 4-act structure, just like any other outlining tool:

  1. It helps in dealing with the overall story better, in an organized manner (just like any other story structure.)
  2. It assists in specifically dealing with the problematic middle of the story – the 75% part of the story that is a bit vaguely structured in the 3-act structure of story writing.
  3. It encourages in figuring out the problems with the story plot and in combing out the plot holes that would inevitably make your story weak.
  4. It helps in understanding what exactly your story is lacking in order to make it into a near-perfect manuscript.
  5. It even aids in recognizing, and then getting rid of, the redundant scenes, side stories and subplots.
  6. It greatly helps in dealing with the most coveted enemy of any writer – writer’s block, when you get stuck in the inescapable limbo.
  7. It also serves, for many writers, as a quick fix to complete the drafts within a particular timeline. It’s not necessarily a short cut, but can definitely be viewed as an answer to many plot-progression related problems.

When should the 3-Sct Structure be used? Before starting the first draft, in between or at the of the nth draft?

Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve discovered the hard way that it’s always best to first write the first draft by the seat of your pants, no matter if you consider yourself a planner or a pantster, because the first draft has to be as unadulterated and pure as can be, and that would be possible only if you let your imagination take over your mind and the muse and instinct guide your hands. The story structure, whether it is a 3-act structure or the 4-act structure or even the 9-act structure, should be applied for the first time to the first draft once it is complete. Then as you progress, it depends on how often you want to adjust your story according to the structure; you can do it while you write or revise your drafts or before or after that. It is entirely up to you.

I have come to realise that if the story structures are applied to the story in the initial stage of the conceiving of the plot, before or right after beginning the first draft (which is far too complex and difficult than one might think) then it corrupts the authenticity of the plot that otherwise might have been and makes it feel constrained. And such writing often results in an amateurish end product.

If you want a simpler story structure for your story, then read this: The 3-Act Structure: In Detail


If you are suffering from a writer’s block or are facing difficulty in getting ahead with your story, here are some articles I recommend:

2019 Resolutions

I know I’m late for this, but I really like doing a resolutions post and I really didn’t want to miss out this year. I’ll try and keep this post as short as I can because if I’d let myself get carried away then this would be one hell of a lengthy post.

So without wasting any time, here’s my list of resolutions for 2019…

2019 Resolutions

Writing:

  • Write 300 words daily. There was a point where I was writing 1200-1500 words daily for over 4 months, but that time is long past and I need to get into the habit of writing every day. So I’m thinking of starting slow and then eventually writing as much as I can.
  • Finish Sinister Town and get it beta read.
  • Complete all the stories for the short story collection Alone In The Dark.
  • Write the first draft of Worlds Apart. This one is a new project that I started last November. I only have the vaguest of ideas about this one but it is a good one and therefore I’m going to work on this one, though very slowly.
  • I have another contemporary story that I have to finish, so that is there too.

Reading:

  • Write interesting and more expressive reviews. Since last two years, I feel I’m holding myself back in reviewing books for some reason. So I’ve decided to be more vocal about my feelings, at least relating to the ones that I really liked or disliked.
  • I’m going to read less this year and try to concentrate more on writing. Last year I read a whopping 120 books and that affected my writing pretty badly as I was in a mad rush to read book after book each and every month. So this year, I’m not going to read more than 5 books a month (this is going to be hard because it’s just 12th Jan today and I’ve already read 4 books. Though, I need to do this in order to not let my writing suffer.)
  • I’m planning to read more of horror and contemporary fiction and some cosy mysteries and classics this year.
  • Read more books on writing.
  • Read all the unread books I have on my shelf.

Miscellaneous:

  • I already maintain a gratitude journal, so I’ll continue having that.
  • I’m going to try and go for morning walks as much as I can – this gets difficult as Vishal and I walk together and when he is busy and out for work, I tend to stay awake in the night so I don’t go for walks in the morning. Still, I’ll try and do it as much as I can.
  • I’m meeting my nutritionist tomorrow after almost a year as I shifted far away from her clinic, so I’ll be sorting out my diets for the next two months. I’m planning to do Keto, so hopefully, I’ll be able to drop some pounds this year.
  • Invest in a property. I have some savings and I am looking for a nice piece of land to invest that money in. It’s going to be small, but it’s going to be mine 🙂
  • I am finally going to learn to drive (admitting I don’t know how to drive is embarrassing enough.) I learned driving at the age of 19, but then I never actually got around to driving a car by myself, therefore, I forgot everything. Vishal has promised me to buy a fully automated car for me so that I won’t have to remember the gears (our Honda City has gears and I absolutely dread using a gear), but I still want to learn before that so that I know driving both kinds.
  • Finish watching Orange Is The New Black, Grimm, Dexter and The Walking Dead on Netflix.
  • Learn Mexican cuisine and do a couple more classes related to baking and making loaves of different kinds of bread.
  • Learn swimming.
  • Continue learning German.
  • Blog more – both in terms of writing posts as well as visiting my old friends and making some new ones.
  • I’m also going to try and spend more quality time with Vishal and the girls by trying to be less online which I’ve already started doing since last year. That’s why I’m posting less on Fb and Twitter and even the blogs than I used to.

That’s it for me. I’m going to focus my energy on this list and see what this year has in store for me. Happy New Year to you all.

Ciao ❤