This post will explain the key plot points we need to hit in Act Three - the resolution portion of your story.

This is a series of posts - now completed - which you can read in full here:

As always this is advice gleaned from K.M. Weiland’s “Structuring Your Novel”. Much of the explanation I’m going to give in this series is adapted from this book, but I advise you to pick up a copy for yourself - it’s a very simple but in-depth guide.

This post will explain the key plot points we need to hit in Act Three - the resolution portion of your story.

Act Three

By this point the battle is coming to a head, demons are being wrestled with and everything is in place for the final confrontation…

3rd Plot Point

The protagonist is high from their recent advances against the enemy, the victory still sweet in their mouth when this point rears its head.

This 3rd Plot Point is a very dark moment - just when we thought all was going well there’s a complete reversal and we realise that things are not going our way at all.

It tends to appear right at the start of act three (some people might say it’s the end of act two) - either way it’s about 75% of the way through.

After this we have a ‘recovery’ period while the hero reels from the blows he’s just encountered, and quite possibly questions everything. ‘The dark night of the soul’ is a pretty apt description of what he goes through here. We don’t know (and often he doesn’t know) if he has what it takes to win after all.

Climax

Here we go - the hero & antagonist fight face to face, it’s do or die. Typically about 88% of the way through, this is the start of the final battle.

It’s followed by the ‘confrontation’ phase, the duel to the death which will resolve this conflict one way or another. Of course the death may be metaphorical, slaying of the characters demons or simply winning the day, but it can also be literal.

Climactic Moment

Right at the end, 98% of the way through, the hero wins (or, rarely, loses) but everything is forever changed. The protagonist’s goal is achieved, and the battle is over.

The rest of the story is the ‘resolution’ - we see the wounds being licked, take stock of the changes in the world and the characters as a result of the climax, and wrap up.

As always, let’s explain these in more detail with a few examples.


Star Wars: A New Hope

3rd Plot Point

Luke, Han & Leia make it to the Falcon and believe they’re home & dry - only to see Vader strike down Ben.

Recovery

Luke has no time to grieve, but is immediately thrown into a space battle with the TIE fighters.

Climax

Back at the rebel base, plans begin to assault the Death Star. Han decides to leave, rather than get involved in a suicide mission.

Confrontation

The Death Star is in the rebel system, ready to attack. The clock is ticking and the defences are taking out all the fighters sent in. The best shot so far fails to hit the exhaust port.

Climactic Moment

Luke uses the Force, guided by Ben, to make the million-to-one shot and destroy the Death Star. Han of course helps by removing the TIE fighters from Luke’s tail.

Resolution

Back on Yavin, celebrations begin and everyone (well, almost everyone) gets a medal.

Despicable Me

3rd Plot Point

Doctor Nefario sends the girls back to the orphanage so that Gru can concentrate on what Nefario believes is his true calling - villainy.

Recovery

Gru misses the girls terribly but manages to steal the moon. He tries to make it back for Agnes’ ballet recital but is too late - and he realises they’re missing.

Climax

Gru chases Vector, tries to rescue the girls and has to swap the moon for them. Vector double-crosses him so Gru has to launch a daring rescue, relying on the girls to trust him.

Climactic Moment

Having never trusted Gru’s motives, Margo jumps and relies on him to catch her. Vector’s ship is destroyed.

Resolution

We see the new happy family together, and even Doctor Nefario seems to have come to terms with the girls’ place in Gru’s life.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

3rd Plot Point

Indy & Marion believe they are safe, but suddenly a Nazi submarine appears and takes both Marion and the Ark away.

Recovery

Indy swims to the submarine and (somehow) hangs on until he reaches the secret base where the Ark is to be opened.

Climax

Indy threatens to destroy the Ark if the Nazis don’t surrender, but his bluff is called and he ends up captured.

Climactic Moment

The Ark is opened, and the Nazis are all destroyed by the wrath of God. Indy & Marian are spared.

Resolution

The Ark is returned to the US, where it’s placed in a warehouse (presumably) never to be seen again. Indy & Marian leave together.


You can see from these familiar examples how exactly the story can build from a seeming victory at the end of the second act to an almost crushing defeat, which in turns leads to a new resolve to win the day in the end.

There will be a final entry in this series, summing up what we’ve learned here, but for now I hope you have a greater understanding of the ‘Three Act Structure’ as it’s typically seen.

My own writing has benefited from this simple outline, and once you’ve seen it you will find it very hard to miss whenever you read another book or watch another movie. In fact, it’s a very helpful exercise to try and spot the key moments as they go past!

If you want to know when the next blog post is done, sign up to the mailing list below and I’ll let you know!