Three Act Structure: How I plan and outline a book

So you’re thinking about writing a book, eh? Well! Prepare to do a lot of preparing, good sir or madam.

So, as a disclaimer, I would like to point out that for my first book, I did not do any preparation or outlining at all. I just sat down with a vague, half-baked notion of my characters and my story and winged it.

It wasn’t BAD, but it was not good by a literary standard in any stretch of the imagination, which is why it took me over a year to rewrite it and I am only now starting to do true copy and proof reading edits.

In On Writing, Stephen King says that he doesn’t bother that much with planning out specific plots or the global structure when he starts writing. He describes it more as starting with an idea and then doing the work to make that into a story.

But that’s Stephen King. He’s forgotten more about writing than you or I will ever learn. There is nothing wrong with coming up with an idea that you THINK could be a good story, putting some scaffolding-like structure around it.

So that’s what I’m going to share with you today. It’s not a scientific or even very academic method of outlining or structuring a novel, but this method won’t be the absolute worst.

The Three Act Structure

Writing a novel is like no other form of writing, but there are things from other mediums that I feel have been serviceable guides to my process and my writing schema, one of which being the theatrical or film concept of the three act structure.

What’s great about the three acts is that, at least for me, it helps me arrange the bones into a skeleton resembling what I learned in school was a story: Beginning, Middle and End.

Act One

For Act One, what I try to focus on is the exposition. So exposition can sometimes feel like an afterthought but guess what, JACK! Act One is important because, if it’s boring or not going to hook the reader, they’re not going to stick around for your even more amazing acts two through three.

Here’s a few questions to answer in Act One: What is going to be the voice of this novel? Who are the audience going to cheer for, and who are they going to cheer against? What is the inciting action, the confrontation?

Act Two

Act Two is rising action and the eventual twist of the book. Rising action is important to conveying the stakes, showing the conflict between characters and building suspense. Then the twist is that “oh WOW” kind of moment. It can be subtle or really in your face, but it is what all of Act Two has been building up to.

Questions to answer in Act Two: What is at stake for our protagonists? How and why are our antagonists motivated against our protagonists goals, or what goals of theirs conflict with our protagonists? Why are our characters destined for this conflict?

Act Three

Act Three is our climax and resolution, or denouement, which is a fancy french word for tie up the loose ends and put a bow on the story. Climax is always going to be the point you want to build up to the most, so it is crucial to spend as much time on it to get it right.

With your denouement, you need to consider any loose ends, unanswered questions, or deliver the things your audience would have expected or felt they were promised. You don’t want to Sam and Diane a pair of characters and end the novel without their being some kind of closure to that relationship.

After you figure out your three act structure, you’re hardly done but you’ve managed to start planning and approaching your story in a way that will benefit you in terms of what you want to accomplish. It will also give you a helpful reminder of the guardrails of your book, so that when you go to edit, you can keep in mind the parts that are most important or relevant to the plot.

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Finals Week Blog Hiatus

I’m just wanting to update you guys, this week and next will mostly be prescheduled blog updates. I’ve got finals this week and will be on a hiatus before I can give you any new updates on the books or other blog posts.

I won’t forget about you during this finals week blog hiatus. Once finals are done, I’m going to watch and write reviews of some of the cult classic films and TV shows.

Wayne’s World, Big Trouble in Little China, Freaks and Geeks and more arrive on the blog soon. So keep checking in and remember to follow and subscribe below! If you have any suggestions or recommendations for cult classic movies or shows to review, comment below.

Also, don’t forget about our book reviews as well! With the new year, I will be adding some new self-published authors and personal favorites.

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Book Update: The Myz Effect

Fresh off the adobe photoshop and creative software, we have our first look at our main characters, brought to life by Allison Smith!

Please check out the character bios and accompanying illustrations on The Myz Effect page.

Allison is a fantastic artist and a pleasure to work with. Please check her out at the following platforms below:

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The Spotify Soundtrack of 2020

Hey everyone, it’s been a bit of a rough year, but also one where we can appreciate the role and significance of art and music in our lives. It was a year where I decided to leave behind all the things that I thought would make me happy and start pursuing my actual dreams.

I went back to school, I started writing a book and now I have a website. I’ve accomplished so much this year, I know that this new year has a lot in store for me.

And guess what. I’m ready.

So I wanted to share my Top Songs from 2020, via the Spotify 2020 Wrapped data that was released.

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Book Update: Mystics and Misfits

Good News! The manuscript for book one, Mystics and Misfits, is complete! I wanted to share this development with you to keep you updated and to keep myself motivated, especially for this next, time- and energy-intensive step: Editing.

As a new writer, I found writing my first book’s manuscript to be challenging at times but extremely fun and rewarding for the majority of the time. I was in my own world, with characters I created and loved, and I made the rules.

Editing, on the other hand, is not fun. AT. ALL. But, the more I have worked on editing these last few days, the more important I find this step in the overall process. I know my story, and I know the voice I want it to convey, but that means nothing if I can not ensure my readers have the best experience with it.

I’m going to keep at it, continue to use my thesaurus to find synonyms for words like ‘said,’ ‘put,’ and ‘moved,’ and I will keep you all updated as I go along. Wish me luck

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5 Things I do before I write every day and Why!

After starting my writing journey a year ago, I’ve found a couple of things that I do before I sit down to write every day that I believe help me to clear my mind, center myself, and just get into that groove that you need to feel.

A lot of this list is personal habits, confidence boosters and routine builders that may not apply to everyone. Also, you may develop your own version of this list, I even recommend it, as having your own personal method will only strengthen and add to your voice in your writing.

So without further ado, here’s five things I do before I start writing.

1. Write down your first thought when you wake up

In greek mythology, the goddess of sleep is sister to the goddess of death. Gloomy, right? Well here’s a positive spin: if going to sleep every night is like dying, then waking up is an act of rebirth.

The ideas in your head when you are fresh out of the bed, crust in your eyes, and body stiff with sleep, they are the ideas that are not only the freshest, but also the ones you have not had enough time to second guess yet.

Fear is the writing killer. Stephen King says as much in his memoir, On Writing – A must read for a beginning writer, even if you don’t plan on writing like or as much as Mr. King does. But fear is also a natural part of being human. So rather than turn myself into a crazed madman, rambling on incoherently and trying to convince people to go in on a time-share in Bermuda with me, I just try and write down a random thought every morning, no matter if it’s about a book or story or just life itself. You never know what you can use as a writer, so just write it down.

2. Eat

A starving artist is a romantic notion, but outside the shores of the River Seine it is a bit impractical and honestly not as fun. I try to get started as early as possible on my daily writing while my brain is still too sleepy to judge or second guess itself. I

f you have other things to do in the morning and can’t set aside one or two hours to just sit and write, I’d recommend doing it after lunch as opposed to dinner. Again, as early in the day, when you have energy and still some hope that the day can be a good one, get that writing done.

Why I think eating something prior to writing is important is because the writing process is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to nourish yourself, both mentally and physically, in preparation.

3. Exercise

This is a personal thing, so believe me you can find your own thing or skip this entirely if you want. I’m just going to explain why getting 20-30 minutes of workout in before writing is helpful.

For one, it’s good to be healthy mentally and physically, as expressed in item 2. But more than that, exercising has a way of just adding some energy and urgency to what you’re doing that day.

4. Meditate

So, we ate, we worked out. By all means, we have completed the preflight checklist for taking off. Not quite.

Myself personally, meditation is very important. I need to do it often, just to feel balanced in my emotions and thoughts. A lot of authors and writers historically have struggled with mental health and wellness, and even before starting my journey, this was true for me.

If there is any part of this list that you take to heart and not toss aside, I truly hope it is this one. Should it be last? No, because good writing (or at least good fiction) isn’t just peace and quiet. It’s conflict, it’s passion, it’s heat, it’s the fog of war. But before we get to that chaotic, melee of a mindscape, it’s good to take perspective and just step back and breath.

5. Find the most crazy, interesting, loud, chaotic place in the world and become a stone

Ok, so a lot of this list could work for anyone and any writing style but I’ll be honest, this is probably the part of the list that is most me. I’m not a guy that thinks well with silence or soothing lighting.

I love to sit and people watch, to write in the middle of a chaotic maelstrom of activity of which I will never be able to fully understand the context or meaning. I do the same thing when I read.

Maybe it’s my ADD-I’m distracted as it is, removing distractions completely only means I’ll have to invent or create my own. And not everything I do in my writing takes place at a rodeo. When I’m editing or outlining or just doing notes, I’m often sitting on my balcony or in my living room or a park bench.

But when I’m creating, I need that chaos, baby.

Well, I hole that some of this was helpful to you, and most importantly, by having an idea of what I do to get myself into the writing mode, you realize you can do it too. Any way you like, however much you want. Just start writing, bud.

You have stories in you, and I’d like to hear them.

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Book Update: Mystics and Misfits

Just want to let you all know that we will be posting new illustrations on the Mystics and Misfits page this Friday!

I want to give a quick shout out to Allison Smith, who helped me through the process and was so professional and talented.

I’m really excited for you all to see what she has done in terms of bringing visual life to characters I’ve created for you all.

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Question and Answer with the Author, Sam Rose

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: While it’s a bit of a typical answer, I really just consider myself a student of life (Ugh, I feel like a college sophomore just saying it). I was always a bit of a strange kid, going back and forth from being a complete attention seeking drama queen to a quiet introspective wallflower.

Q: Why did you choose the name, Dark and Silly Books?

A: Primarily because that would be the vibe I think most people get from meeting me or reading what I write. I actually did a bit of standup comedy in college, and I’ve always believed that comedy equals intelligence plus perspective times medium. Most importantly, I believe in the truth and honesty, something that’s particularly difficult nowadays, but I believe in those things, even as the world gets harder and dumber and just so UGH annoying.

Q: How long have you been writing?

A: All my life, the only difference now is that I’m trying to share it with you jamooks! (Just kidding, I don’t think you’re a jamook. You’ve already kept reading this far, you clearly have good taste)

Q: So the website is called Dark and Silly; Were you a goth kid growing up?

A: No, but I was pretty emo. I listened to Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco (still do) and I loved anime, manga, and watching adult swim (still do). But weirdly enough, I dressed kind of preppy (Button downs, American Eagle blue jeans, douche pookashell necklace) in high school.

Q: What was it like growing up in East Texas?

A: Everyday was a choice between going to a rodeo, after school church activities, or staying home playing halo with whoever also didn’t want to do any of the other two.

Q: Are your characters in your books or short stories based on you?

A: Yes. No. I don’t know, maybe. I’m just trying to write, dude, calm down.

Q: Vacation on the beach or on the mountain?

A: Beach, because everything that could kill me in the ocean will stay in the ocean. Bears do not respect about stop lights and do not enter signs.

Q: What book did you most recently read that made you stay up all night?

A: Circe by Madeline Miller (Peep the review here).

Q: You biggest role model growing up?

A: My momma! She has always had my back, is a tough, smart, independent lady, and is the one that has been telling me I can do this every time I doubt myself on this writing journey.

Q: Favorite TV show?

A: Community. I stan Dan Harmon so hard, guys. It’s a problem.

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The Heroic and Noble Tale of Turbo Guy: Part 1

As the wind whipped through the arid planes of what remained of Amarillo, Texas, on the outskirts of the small community of survivors a figure appeared in the distance. Jeremy Smith’s boy Kyle was the first to make out the figure of the man in the distance, running to the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Lodge, their converted town hall and lawman’s office. Kyle reports to Constable Rogers that there is a man, approaching town from the East.

“Is it the Roamers?” Rogers asked.

“Can’t tell, but there’s only one of them.”

Rogers grunts, telling Kyle to go find his dad and tell the others to hunker down until he gives the signal. Roamers don’t come around by themselves, Rogers thinks to himself. Is it a new chieftain or an envoy, sent to ask for more tribute?

Rogers fastens his belt and holster to his waist, taking the revolver from the gun case behind his desk. He loads the chambers of the gun and tucks a few bullets into his pockets, pins the tin badge he found at the old Sheriff’s Station, and walks out the door toward the entrance to town.

As the figure gets within a hundred yards of Rogers, he squints and cocks his brow. In the distance, he can see a man, about mid 30s and average height and build. The man is wearing blue lycra spandex with a pair of red athletic shorts over them. Spray painted on the chest is a diamond rhombus with a T centered within it. A pair of snorkeling goggles minus the snorkel and a red cape complete the man’s odd ensemble, as Rogers stands in wait, thumb tucked into his belt just in front of the handle of his gun. Oh god, Rogers thinks to himself. What wasteland madness is this retard bringing in with him?

“Are you the law of this town, Officer?” The stranger asked, stopping a few feet in front of Rogers, bringing his heels snapping together and flinging a salute to his forehead like an overeager toddler meeting a cop for the first time.

“Name’s Constable Rogers. I’m the town’s lawman and representative.” Rogers said, eying the man up and down for weapons, finding him to be completely unarmed. “Mind telling me who you are and what you’re doing here?”

“Never fear, goodly lawman Rogers!” He exclaimed, thrusting out his chest, his fists on his hips. “Turbo Guy, paragon of the wastelands and last true superhero of the Apocalypse! I come to offer hope and salvation to those in need across the wastelands, and punish the wicked!”

“Oh…” Rogers replied, relaxing the hand by his gun. He rubs the back of his neck. Great, now I got to worry about Roamers and this lunatic, Rogers thinks to himself. “Listen, you seem like a nice guy—“

“That’s Turbo Guy, paragon of the wastelands and last true—“

“Yeah, I got all that. You see, now might not be the best time for you to be in town.” Rogers said, putting a hand on Turbo Guy’s shoulder, leading him like a lost child in the opposite direction of town. Kyle emerges from behind an abandoned sedan, where he had been hiding and eavesdropping the entire time.

“Are you a real superhero?” Kyle asked. Turbo Guy smiles and ducks under Rogers arm.

“Why yes I am, junior citizen!” Turbo Guy boasted. “I was caught up in the middle of the blast when the bombs fell, but I survived and when I transformed from mild mannered comic books and figurine manager, Jeff Turbinsky, to TURBO GUY.”

“Do you have any superpowers?” Kyle asked.

“Well,” Turbo Guy said, a conflicted tone to his voice. “Some of my powers have yet to manifest themselves, however, I have superhuman bravery and a superhuman commitment to setting wrongs right. No evildoer has escaped my justice!”

“So you can help us with the Roamers?” Kyle asked.

“Ok, I think that’s enough,” Rogers said. “I think it’s time Mr. Turbinsky—“

“Turbo Guy.”

“Whatever,” Rogers replied waving a hand dismissively. “I think its time for you to be on your way.”

“Very well.” Turbo Guy said. “I shall wait outside of town for these rapscallion Roamers to reveal themselves, so as to limit the chance of civilians being caught in the crossfire.”

“Fine,” Rogers said, taking Kyle by the arm. “So long as you keep it out of town, doesn’t matter to me.” He turns and walks back to town, pulling Kyle in tow. “Just another dead lunatic out in the wasteland.”

After Rogers herds Kyle back to his father, warning him to keep a closer eye on the kid, he walks over to the Highway Patrol saloon, an old DPS station converted into a pub and watering hole for the town. Rogers buys five cigarettes on credit from the bartender. He lights a cigarette and takes a long draw on that first blast of nicotine in his system. He had just quit when the first bomb fell. He joked to himself that the apocalypse forced him to quit quitting. Fact of the matter was, the end of the world was just a convenient excuse.

As the sun sets, Rogers keeps an eye on the outskirts of town, wanting to make sure he saw the Roamers coming into town and keep an eye out for their newest “protector.” They came to collect tribute towards the last of day light; they may be murderers, thugs and rapists, but they were punctual and regular to a fault. Rogers found a folding chair and made himself comfortable as he smoked.

After cigarette number three, Rogers spies Sally Henderson, her dirty blonde hair and stocky frame a singular sight among the women in town, walking down the main road to the Saloon. Sally heaved a large, packed duffle in front of his feet. Rogers leans forward from the chair, nudging the empty air of the half full bag with the toe of his boot. He looks up at Sally with a sigh.

“That’s all we could put together,” Sally said. “Until we get the irrigation system working again, we aren’t going to have enough to feed ourselves, let alone those monsters.”

Rogers can hear the venom in her voice, knowing it was not solely directed at the Roamers. Rogers did not enjoy giving so much of their crop, medicine, and salvage to the Roamers, but he didn’t have many options. The Roamers were well armed, and what they lacked in numerical advantage they made up for by not being a scared group of mothers, children and elderly men. And the few men he had capable of putting up a fight were either too chicken or untrained.

“I’ll make it work,” Rogers said. “Thank you, Sally.”

Sally leaves with a huff. After her son had a rough spell of fever and exhaustion, she understood better than anyone that their town was constantly on the edge, creeping closer every day. Every drop of food, water and medicine they gave the Roamers brought her son and every survivor of Amarillo closer to death. Rogers knew that, but he was just doing triage in a hospital full of dying patients.

Rogers observes the Roamers coming over the horizon, a cloudy tail of dust and dirt flicking into the air behind them. He gathers the duffle and heads towards the city limits sign to meet them. As Rogers surveys the west Texas desert, Turbo Guy is nowhere to be seen.

The Roamers jeep screeches to a halt only a few yards from Rogers. Rogers stands motionless, squinting and coughing as the plume of dirt breezes by him. The engine of the jeep dies down, and the door juts open. A sunburned man, dressed in a tattered duster with spikes and bones on the shoulders and lapel, steps out. He removes a pair of tinted goggles, dust rings formed around the pale circles of skin like a reverse raccoon. He gazes at Rogers, flashing a toothy smile of yellowed, sharpened teeth, one lone dead tooth along the top left row providing a black kernel among the yellow buds in his mouth.

“Well, now, Lawman Rogers,” the Roamer Chieftain said, approaching Rogers, arms out stretched. “I’ve been telling these boys, ain’t no one I trust more to deliver what’s owed me than a good ol’fashioned lawman. Gimme.”

The Chieftain holds out a beckoning hand to Rogers, waving his fingers expectantly. Rogers drops the duffle’s handles into the Roamers hand. The Roamer lifts the duffle up and down, a quizzical expression forming.

“Now, I ain’t the kind of man to go and call a officer of the law a liar,” the Chieftan said. “But I can’t but help noticing this bag is much lighter than I was lead to believe it would be.”

“It’s the best we can do.” Rogers said, staring blankly at the Roamer. “We’ve had production issues and equipment breaking. We’ll make it up in the next tribute.”

“Well,” the Chieftain said, rubbing his chin. “Maybe that could be alright. Tell you what, I’m reasonable: I’ll let you make up in the next one, provided I get a little interest for providing such a grace period. Maybe some collateral, if you will.”

The Roamer slides his eyes down to the revolver on Rogers hip. Rogers had been issued the gun when he first swore in as a deputy. He remembered the oath he had swore to uphold the laws of the land and protect the innocent. On more than one occasion, that revolver had saved his life. Rogers unbuckles the belt, coiling it around the holstered revolver. He holds it out to the Chiefain, his toothy, yellow smile growing as he watched Rogers strip himself of his authority and dignity before his eyes.

“Not so fast, evildoer!”

Rogers mouths a curse under his breath, as the voice of the wasteland hero rang out from behind a car. At first, the voice sits there, unaccompanied by the body that it was attached to, until a flushed Turbo Guy stumbles out from behind it. Quickly hopping to a heroic pose after gaining his balance, Turbo guy’s cape catches on a snag in the metal frame of the car, revealing a long jagged tear.

“I believe that gun belongs to a man of justice, and those supplies to the good people of Amarillo!” Turbo Guy shouted, his hand outstretched and palm facing towards the Chieftain. “And you are neither!”

The Chieftain looks at Turbo Guy, then at Rogers, then back to Turbo Guy, and breaks out into uproarious laughter. The other Roamers, peering out of the windows of the Jeep, covered in bones and leathery masks, joined in chorus.

“Oh, lawman!” the Chieftain said, giggling in delight and surprise. “I know that times are tough and all, but are you serious with this shit?”

“This…guy just got here today,” Rogers explained. “The man’s crazy, thinks the blast made him a super hero. Calls himself Turbo and says he punishes criminals or some shit.”

“That’s Turbo Guy,” he corrected, to an even louder verse of laughter. Turbo Guy advances toward the Chieftain. “And I am going to give you one last chance: give back what you have stolen and leave this town alone. Or prepare for your defeat!”

The Chieftain looks back at his compatriots, and without warning, lands a hard, thumping right hook to Turbo Guy’s jaw. Turbo Guy crumples to the ground, and the Chieftain begins to kick and beat the fallen hero, his crew joining in on the savagery. The Roamers stop after a few moments, leaving Turbo Guy moaning and laying motionless in the dirt.

“Well,” the Chieftain said. “That was fun! See you in a few days for next tribute, lawman.”

He gives Turbo Guy one last swift kick before returning to his jeep. The wheels kick up more dirt as the Roamers skid off into the horizon east of town. Rogers gets to his knees beside Turbo Guy, placing his index and middle fingers on his carotid to check for a pulse. He finds a faint, but beating rhythm in Turbo Guy’s throat. Rogers sighs, then turns and returns to town, leaving Turbo Guy passed out and motionless in the desert. As he walks back to the Saloon, Sally stops him to ask what they should do about Turbo Guy.

“When he wakes up, he’ll head off,” Rogers said, lighting a cigarette. “Best he just leave while he still can. He can’t help us, so there’s no reason we should waste our supplies helping him.”

Uninterested in discussing it more, Rogers goes into the Saloon, grumbling at the barkeep to give him some whiskey. Sally looks towards the crumpled heap of Turbo Guy on the edge of town.

She remembered when her son first tried to stand up with the rest of the town folks against the roamers. How the Roamers had tied up the fighting men that surrendered and beat them, leaving them in the middle of the desert. Rogers never missed a tribute payment since then. Sally notices Kyle peering at Turbo Guy from behind a pile of rocks. Kyle locks eyes with Sally, who points towards Turbo Guy with her chin. They both collect the fallen, quixotic hero and carry him into town.

I hope that you have enjoyed Dark and Silly Books first publication, The Heroic and Noble Tale of Turbo Guy: Part 1, from our short story collection, Stories from the End of Time! We want to bring you more stories like this, so sign up for our email list so you can keep in touch!

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