The Complete Guide to 3-Act Structure in Movies and TV Shows

The 3-act structure is useful for storytelling because it helps you to plan out your plot before you start writing. It makes your story more structured and thus easier to write. Using this storytelling technique, you can tell exactly what happens when, where and with who.

Why Does Hollywood Use the 3-Act Structure?

The 3-act structure is one of the most common and well-known storytelling techniques in Hollywood. This technique has been around for a while and it has been used in many screenwriting books and courses. The 3-act structure is a way to divide a story into 3 parts, which represent different stages in the story. These three parts are often called: Act One (the beginning), Act Two (the middle) and Act Three (the end).

The Importance of a Solid 3 Act Structure in a Screenplay

Act One is the introduction to the story and its characters. It builds up anticipation for what is coming next. Act Two is the main body of the script, where all of the action takes place, with lots of twists and turns, ups and downs. Act Three is when all of the loose ends are tied up, when there's either a happy or sad conclusion that leaves you satisfied in one way or another.

ACT 1 – Entering the World of the Story

The first act of a story is often called the “meet-cute.” This is the first encounter that happens between the protagonist and one or more important people in their life, which will later have a significant effect on them.

The first act of a story usually lasts from page 12 to page 24. In this time, we learn about who the main character is and where they’ve been so far in their life. The goal of this part of the story is to introduce us to a protagonist who has a unique world view, one that will be challenged by events happening in subsequent acts.

ACT 2 – The Conflict and Characterization

The second act of a play usually has a lot of conflict and characterization, which allows for the protagonist to grow and the audience to care about them.

In Act II, we find out more information about the protagonist. We find out what makes them tick. We find out what is important to them or what they are afraid of.

We also see how this character's flaw totally screws things up for him or her in this act.

ACT 3 – The Climax and Conclusion

The third act contains the climax and conclusion of the story. The third act of a story is the final act, which resolves the dramatic question that has been set up in the first part. This usually happens very suddenly and dramatically, as everything comes to a head before it’s suddenly resolved (usually in an unexpected way).

In literature, a climax is the turning point of a narrative event. In other words, it's the most exciting part of a story. A climax can be the final scene of a movie, or it could be when your protagonist finally reaches their goal. There are many different types of climaxes that you should know about. 

The Pros & Cons Of Using The Three Act Structure For Your Stories

The three-act structure is a classic for a reason. It's been used for thousands of years and it still provides the best structure for the story. It's a proven way of writing stories that always holds up under scrutiny. But is it really the best way to write your story?


- The three-act structure is an easy-to-understand format that you can use to create a compelling story that feels natural and organic.


- Overusing this formula could make your story feel too predictable and bland, while some authors might even claim that this formula limits creativity.

Conclusion – What Makes a Good Screenplay Great?

The Three Act Structure is one of the most fundamental concepts in all of screenwriting. Joseph Campbell, who wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, famously said that the only real difference between all stories is what happens in Act I, II and III. The three-act structure can be applied to any form of storytelling, but it’s particularly helpful for screenplays because it keeps you focused on your story’s destination.

This article will conclude with a list of points that may help writers improve their work.

1) Characterization: The story should be able to take the audience on a journey with the protagonist. The audience should be able to relate to the protagonist, and feel what they are feeling.

2) Dialogue: The dialogue should be realistic, not too formal or too casual, and should flow naturally.

3) Narrative Structure: The story needs an interesting plotline that is developed well over time. It may help to think of the main conflict as having 3 parts – exposition, rising action, climax/resolution.

4) Conflict: Conflict is key for a good story. Without it there would be no tension or suspense for the audience to feel invested in your movie or TV show.