This was by far the best overview of the 3 act story structure I’ve come across. It’s essentially a chapter-by-chapter outline of a story. It breaks the story down into the perfect-sized pieces that provides the right amount of guidance to prompt ideas, while also giving you the space to do with it whatever you like.
It was hard for me to follow along without having something stationary to refer to, so you can find the PDF summary for it below. If you’re looking for a Scrivener alternative that allows you to write on the go (including on your phone), a Notion template can also be found below.
Printable PDF Summary & Storyboard
Click here to access Notion Template.
Detailed Description/Transcript of Video:
DISCLAIMER: The following is almost word-for-word from the video from 1:20 to 5:30, with a bit of restructuring. You can also find a detailed form of this on Kat O’Keeffe’s website.
First do a basic overview of the structure. Start with three acts
Divide those further into its own beginning, middle and end:
Those 9 divisions are called blocks.
Each block has its own kind of arch, its own story pattern. Which is a very general story pattern:
Stasis -> Action Disruption -> React, Struggle
Basically we start with a stasis and then something happens to disrupt that stasis and then we react to that disruption and we struggle to find a new stasis. This cycle repeats over and over again in a story.
And this is why we can divide each block into thirds again, because it’s a natural division. It’s just how stories usually flow. Beginning, middle and end.
These 27 parts are then the chapters of the book. Of course the actual chapters can be divided differently. But this can be a good baseline.
If chapter is about 3,000 words, that’s about 15 pages. Which is a good length for a chapter. That makes for a overall wordcount of 81,000 (or 405 pages) for the book. Which is a great place to aim for as far as word count goes.
ACT 1 – Beginning
BLOCK 1 – Beginning
Chapter 1 – Introduction
Chapter 2 – Inciting Incident
Chapter 3 – Fallout
The immediate reaction to the inciting incident.
BLOCK 2 – Middle
The longer-term reaction to the inciting incident from block 1.
Chapter 4 – Reaction/Rebel
Usually a rebellion against the changes the inciting incident has incited.
Chapter 5 – Action
The protagonist takes action
Chapter 6 – Consequence
Consequence to that action
BLOCK 3 – End
Chapter 7 – Pressure
Pressure increasing because of those consequences
Chapter 8 – Plot Twist
First major plot twist
Chapter 9 – Push
We are pushed into the new world of the second act.
ACT 2 – Middle
BLOCK 4 – Beginning
Chapter 10 – New World
We get to explore new world
Chapter 11 – Fun + Games
And have some fun & games as we play around in this new situation
Chapter 12 – Old Juxtaposition
To balance out all the new stuff, we have some juxtaposition, some reminders of the old world.
BLOCK 5 – Middle
Chapter 13 – Build Up
Another pressure chapter as we build up to the midpoint.
Chapter 14 – Midpoint
Chapter 15 – Reversal
Turning point. We’re in the second half of the story now and there’s no going back to the old world.
BLOCK 6 – End
Chapter 16 – Consequence
Chapter 17 – Trials
Action chapter. The protagonist is being tested in new ways, but they often succeed.
Chapter 18 – Dedication
Or at the very least, they come out of the trials more determined and dedicated than ever before.
ACT 3 – End
BLOCK 7 – Beginning
Chapter 19 – Calm Before the Storm/Anticipation/Suspense
Which is actually not super calm because we’re building up a lot of pressure and tension as we move towards the 2nd major plot twist
Chapter 20 – Plot Twist 2
Chapter 21 – Darkest Moment
The dark night of the soul. All hope is lost.
BLOCK 8 – Middle
Chapter 22 – Power Within
Hope is not loss, because we have a power within that brings the protagonist back from the brink of death and despair.
Chapter 23 – Action/Rally
The protagonist takes action, rallies the troops and sets into motion, the convergence of the storylines
Chapter 24 – Convergence
Everything is building up and coming together for the finale.
BLOCK 9 – End (the Finale)
Chapter 25 – The Final Battle
Chapter 26 – Climax
Chapter 27 – Resolution (the Ending)
Posts in Series:
- Part 1: Writing Method: Snowflake by Randy Ingermanson (Printable Summaries)
- Part 2: Writing Method: 7-Point System by Dan Wells (Printable Summaries)
- Part 3: Writing Method: Writing into the Dark (Pantsers) by Dean Wesley Smith
- Part 4: Writing Method: Making a Mess by Me 🙂
- Part 5: Writing Method: 3 Act/9 Block/27 Chapter Outline by Kat O’Keeffe (Printable Summaries)
- Part 6: Writing Method: Plot Structure by Jenna Moreci (Printable Worksheets)
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2 Replies to “Writing Method: 3 Act/9 Block/27 Chapter Outline by Kat O’Keeffe (Printable Summaries)”
I’m not sure why, but having the inciting incident in chapter 2 feels really early. Have you found it results in better pacing?
That’s a good question, here’s a couple of points to consider:
The 27 chapters are a baseline to start from. You can add different scenes/or chapters based on what you feel your story needs.
Inciting incidents seem to start off early in the book, The advice everywhere seems to be to get into the thick of things right away. The way I’ve seen it happen is that a smalls snippet of their current life is shown and then the inciting incident occurs. Sometimes, in some stories, you will still see remnants of their former lives infringe right up until the middle so there’s no real reason to stretch out the beginning too far. (I have a problem of doing that, so this is really me telling myself.)
That being said, you would be the best judge in what’s required for your story. If putting the inciting incident that early on feels rushed, then it might be best to stick to your gut (so I’ve found).
Thanks for the insightful question!