Moving Your Writing Beyond “Beginning, Middle and End”
Wordsmith Essays is proud to bring you the best online essay editing available today. We also strive to help you improve your writing in general, which includes helping you before you actually begin to write. Today, one of our editors talks about moving beyond the basic “beginning, middle and end” structure of writing a story.
Almost everyone has heard of the three-act structure. This theory that stories consist of a “beginning, middle, and end”—also referred to as the “introduction, rising action, and climax”—is often credited to Aristotle and remains the most popular way of explaining story structure to this day.
Personally, I am not a fan of this approach. The three-act structure is one of those models that have been simplified to the point of being useless. It does not accurately describe how a good story is written and it does not help writers, readers, and critics identify elements of a story. Much like the five paragraph essay, the only thing they are really good for is providing a simple model for beginners to work with and their application to more complex writing—an inevitability due to their ubiquity—results in boring, poorly-constructed works.
The major problem with the three-act structure is that it is fundamentally reactionary and adherence to it generally results in a passive protagonist. The introduction is often described as the establishment of the status quo, the point where we see the world and our protagonist’s place in it; “Rising action” refers to a period in the story where the protagonist struggles against a problem but is unable to resolve it; and the “climax” refers to the point where the problem of the story is confronted and finally resolved in some manner. In every act of the three-act structure, the focus is on external forces, either the world or the “problem” of the story, and the agency of the protagonist is displaced.
An easy fix for this is to simply elaborate on the three-act structure. Writers often discuss ideas such as “the pinch” (a complication in the problem of the story), “inciting incident” (the event during the introduction that sets off the action of the story), or “turning points” (the major decision or event that signals the end of an act) as internal elements of the three-act structure. These elements are used to make the three-act structure a more accurate and useful model, but they are only treating the symptoms of the problem. The underlying flaws in the three-act structure must be addressed with an alternative model that is more useful in explaining how story structures work.
That’s a lot to think about, so we’ll leave off here for today. Next time, we’ll discuss some possible alternatives to the three-act structure and how they can help you write a better story.
Once you’ve finished your writing, you may want to have our essay editing services help give it a final read-through, to help clear up readability errors or grammatical problems. Why not head over to our order form today and look at all the different options and price points we give you? We’ll help polish your essay to a fine shine.