in an earlier post you talk about acts and arcs in writing, what are they? how are they helpful to you? :)
Yes, let’s talk about writing components! Or more specifically, ah, the angle I come at it from, which is scriptwriting components.
First, your Acts.
There are usually 3 per story (this can change, but I don’t think experimenting with an Act structure is wise until a person is comfortable with it). You may know it as the ‘Beginning’ ‘Middle’ and ‘End.’ But generally speaking they are each about a third of the book (this can also be different):
Act 1: Establishes the main introductory characters, the villain (hi, Ice Plague, nice to meetcha), the foundation of what’s coming ahead in the book, sets up the main storylines and potentially conflicts. In it, the characters often have a clear goal. In book 1 of the The Ice Plague the clear goals are for Eran - getting revenge for his family, Mosk - refusing to get engaged in life again, Gwyn - getting to the bottom of what’s happening, Augus - ‘I guess Gwyn’s doing that so whatever I’m coming.’
Act 2: Often thwarts the main goals of the main characters, often completely rerouting or destroying them in the process. This is where a lot of the meaty conflict happens. If you’re not writing a conflict heavy book or story, this might be where characters question themselves the most or experience the most doubt. At this point we also often encounter the villain again (if we haven’t already) and get more insight into what’s happening there. Character’s views may change. See: Eran - realising he wants to protect Mosk, Mosk - beginning to become invested in life again but reluctantly, Gwyn - realising what’s happening is bigger than he realised, Augus - ‘ugh.’
Act 3: In a standalone story, this is where you wrap up all your storylines and give resolution to the characters. It’s also time for the Final Showdown (dun dun DUN), or the Final Conflict (dun dun DUN!!!), or the Final…whatever. It usually takes about a third of a book to start doing this, but sometimes Act 3 can be a lot shorter. This will offer some form of resolution to the characters (unless you’re writing a series like I am, in which case Act 3 offers resolution to some characters and not others). It will give people either a happy or sad ending. Authors like to experiment a lot with Act 3, but a classical third act provides closure.
Now let’s talk about Arcs.
Broadly speaking, each script has about 3 Arcs. Arcs are always lettered to not get in the way of the 3-part Act structure. This is very common in television drama in particular, and film. And it can be fun spotting the 3 story arcs per episode. But I’m going to use The Ice Plague to explain arcs.
You have your A Arc / Storyline- This is the main storyline. In The Ice Plague, this is Eran capturing Mosk and then their developing relationship. It’s the focal point of the story, and everything that happens to them influences the A storyline. Basically the A Storyline should somehow touch everything in the story. Unless you’re messing with foundations to do something different. In TV, it may also be your ‘story of the week’ on a procedural.
Then you have your B Arc / Storyline- This is normally background stuff that’s happening that generates conflict for the A Storyline, but is also acting separately to it. In something like a Marvel film, this may be the villains actively working against the A Storyline. B Storylines are complex because they often steal the spotlight from time to time. In The Ice Plague the B Storyline is Augus and Gwyn joining the story, and the characters and events that surround them. It focuses on their relationship and the things that help and hinder it, which has a direct effect on the A storyline characters.
And then finally you have your C Arc / Storyline- You may find yourself having more than one of these, but generally this is background shit that influences everything but isn’t your focus. It may be the actions of villains in the background (i.e. the ice plague or Olphix visiting). It may be the actions of side characters. For me a C Arc is ‘how is the world reacting to what’s happening right now.’ It means Luridan following Mosk and Eran, it means the party encountering conflict in the form of starving fae, it means Oengus agreeing to take them in to help them etc. A C storyline can be - just as often in a TV drama - a background storyline that is building momentum as the show progresses. For example, Flitmouse in The Golden Age that Never Was initially begins as a C storyline, but it gains momentum as the story progresses. So this can also be ‘hidden’ storylines, or things that you know will become important later but right now are only quiet.
You can have more than one. C Arcs are complex, and depending on what you’re writing will determine on if you need them, how many you need, etc. Classically, in television drama serials, the C Arc is often very background shit that’s building momentum slowly. In The X Files it was often small side hints to the overarching conspiracy of the time. In Fae Tales it’s often building towards revelations re: the long-term actions of fae, like the Nightingale, or Olphix and Davix, or the Raven Prince etc.
If you want to get more in depth about it, you can also have Arcs for EACH ACT. Generally speaking you will want to preserve your A and B Storylines across Acts 1, 2 and 3. But I often close out C Storylines at the end of an act and introduce a new one in the next. This is pretty common to television drama procedurals and other series.
I remember I did a long post about this once for The Court of Five Thrones, breaking down each act, but I can’t find it (thanks Tumblr search and me for not tagging things properly sometimes).
I don’t usually plan out my Acts/Arcs properly unless it’s like, The Ice Plague or The Court of Five Thrones. But I do instinctively work to a 3 Act / 3 Arc structure. I don’t really seek to break the rules on that. Also, FWIW, I often follow a really miniature beginning/middle/end act structure in chapters too, because they’re like tiny little standalone episodes. There’s exceptions, but I like doing that,, it’s fun.
Also finally I’m not like a teacher of writing or scriptwriting or whatever and there’s a million sites that can break this stuff down better than I can!