Thursday, April 21, 2011

Structure: Hollywood Movies

There's actually a lot to say about the structure of Hollywood films, but the basic building blocks they overwhelmingly share are three acts.  Here's how it looks:

Act One (30 minutes): we meet the hero, and are made to feel sympathy for him.  We see his world in its normal state.  All important subplots are shown in their beginning shape.  Then something big happens, presenting a huge threat to or opportunity for the hero.  He formulates a plan and begins to act to counter the threat or achieve the objective.

Act Two (60 minutes): the hero struggles against obstacles, and all subplots move forward.  The hero ends in apparent defeat.

Act Three (30 minutes): using new insight or power (generally obtained through the maturation or one or more subplots), the hero adopts a new plan or revises his old one, and triumphs, ending the threat / achieving the objective / achieving a newly realized, more important objective.

You might choose to structure your novel in three acts, like a Hollywood movie; the ubiquity of that form and structure might make it feel like a very comfortable and effective structure to use.  Even if you don't, you should observe that here we see again, like in Matthew, the basic structural components of beginning, middle and end.

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