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A play has certain practical requirements that are met by dividing it into acts:

  • It providedprovides an opportunity to change the set or to redress the existing set.
  • It allows you to suggest a change of time or place to the audience.
  • It givegives the audience a chance to pee and visit the snack bar.

Part of the art of writing a play is lining up the dramatic structure of the play to align with the physical requirements of acts.

TV has similar problems with its need to show commercials. Again, you want the dramatic structure to line up with the commercial breaks. That is part of the art of writing for broadcast TV.

Even movies have some need for dividing the story up into somewhat regular time units, because while they don't have to pause to change sets, and no longer pause to let the audience pee and visit the snack bar, they do still have to deal with the passage of time, and they have to keep up a pace because the audience is captive in their seats and needs some sense that things are moving along.

Novels, on the other hand, have no need for acts in this sense. The audience is not bound to read at a set pace or in a fixed time and the novelist can indicate the change of time or place by simply stating that they have changed. There is therefore less need to fit the shape of novels to a structure of acts.

Nonetheless, thinking in terms of acts is a common way to describe the structure of a story (particularly in works that focus on the stage and screen, which is where most of the writing on story seems to come from these days). And so, as other answers illustrate, acts tend to get mapped to events in the story arc, usually moments of crisis.

Still, the novel has long had its own unit for breaking the story into parts: the chapter. The chapter is a flexible unit. Some authors use short chapters and some use long ones. Chapters generally have some unity of theme or action, but no one suggests that they always delineate the major turning points of a story. They might better be described a "beats" in the story.

Is it really useful to import the very mechanical function of the Act from the stage to other media that do not share the same constraints of place and time. Some seem to think so. And some seem to stumble over it. Given this I would say that if you are writing for the page, use the concept if you find it useful; ignore it if you don't. But if you are writing for the stage, you are pretty much bound to follow it, and, to a lesser extent, for the screen as well.

A play has certain practical requirements that are met by dividing it into acts:

  • It provided an opportunity to change the set or to redress the existing set.
  • It allows you to suggest a change of time or place to the audience.
  • It give the audience a chance to pee and visit the snack bar.

Part of the art of writing a play is lining up the dramatic structure of the play to align with the physical requirements of acts.

TV has similar problems with its need to show commercials. Again, you want the dramatic structure to line up with the commercial breaks. That is part of the art of writing for broadcast TV.

Even movies have some need for dividing the story up into somewhat regular time units, because while they don't have to pause to change sets, and no longer pause to let the audience pee and visit the snack bar, they do still have to deal with the passage of time, and they have to keep up a pace because the audience is captive in their seats and needs some sense that things are moving along.

Novels, on the other hand, have no need for acts in this sense. The audience is not bound to read at a set pace or in a fixed time and the novelist can indicate the change of time or place by simply stating that they have changed. There is therefore less need to fit the shape of novels to a structure of acts.

Nonetheless, thinking in terms of acts is a common way to describe the structure of a story (particularly in works that focus on the stage and screen, which is where most of the writing on story seems to come from these days). And so, as other answers illustrate, acts tend to get mapped to events in the story arc, usually moments of crisis.

Still, the novel has long had its own unit for breaking the story into parts: the chapter. The chapter is a flexible unit. Some authors use short chapters and some use long ones. Chapters generally have some unity of theme or action, but no one suggests that they always delineate the major turning points of a story. They might better be described a "beats" in the story.

Is it really useful to import the very mechanical function of the Act from the stage to other media that do not share the same constraints of place and time. Some seem to think so. And some seem to stumble over it. Given this I would say that if you are writing for the page, use the concept if you find it useful; ignore it if you don't. But if you are writing for the stage, you are pretty much bound to follow it, and, to a lesser extent, for the screen as well.

A play has certain practical requirements that are met by dividing it into acts:

  • It provides an opportunity to change the set or to redress the existing set.
  • It allows you to suggest a change of time or place to the audience.
  • It gives the audience a chance to pee and visit the snack bar.

Part of the art of writing a play is lining up the dramatic structure of the play to align with the physical requirements of acts.

TV has similar problems with its need to show commercials. Again, you want the dramatic structure to line up with the commercial breaks. That is part of the art of writing for broadcast TV.

Even movies have some need for dividing the story up into somewhat regular time units, because while they don't have to pause to change sets, and no longer pause to let the audience pee and visit the snack bar, they do still have to deal with the passage of time, and they have to keep up a pace because the audience is captive in their seats and needs some sense that things are moving along.

Novels, on the other hand, have no need for acts in this sense. The audience is not bound to read at a set pace or in a fixed time and the novelist can indicate the change of time or place by simply stating that they have changed. There is therefore less need to fit the shape of novels to a structure of acts.

Nonetheless, thinking in terms of acts is a common way to describe the structure of a story (particularly in works that focus on the stage and screen, which is where most of the writing on story seems to come from these days). And so, as other answers illustrate, acts tend to get mapped to events in the story arc, usually moments of crisis.

Still, the novel has long had its own unit for breaking the story into parts: the chapter. The chapter is a flexible unit. Some authors use short chapters and some use long ones. Chapters generally have some unity of theme or action, but no one suggests that they always delineate the major turning points of a story. They might better be described a "beats" in the story.

Is it really useful to import the very mechanical function of the Act from the stage to other media that do not share the same constraints of place and time. Some seem to think so. And some seem to stumble over it. Given this I would say that if you are writing for the page, use the concept if you find it useful; ignore it if you don't. But if you are writing for the stage, you are pretty much bound to follow it, and, to a lesser extent, for the screen as well.

1
source | link

A play has certain practical requirements that are met by dividing it into acts:

  • It provided an opportunity to change the set or to redress the existing set.
  • It allows you to suggest a change of time or place to the audience.
  • It give the audience a chance to pee and visit the snack bar.

Part of the art of writing a play is lining up the dramatic structure of the play to align with the physical requirements of acts.

TV has similar problems with its need to show commercials. Again, you want the dramatic structure to line up with the commercial breaks. That is part of the art of writing for broadcast TV.

Even movies have some need for dividing the story up into somewhat regular time units, because while they don't have to pause to change sets, and no longer pause to let the audience pee and visit the snack bar, they do still have to deal with the passage of time, and they have to keep up a pace because the audience is captive in their seats and needs some sense that things are moving along.

Novels, on the other hand, have no need for acts in this sense. The audience is not bound to read at a set pace or in a fixed time and the novelist can indicate the change of time or place by simply stating that they have changed. There is therefore less need to fit the shape of novels to a structure of acts.

Nonetheless, thinking in terms of acts is a common way to describe the structure of a story (particularly in works that focus on the stage and screen, which is where most of the writing on story seems to come from these days). And so, as other answers illustrate, acts tend to get mapped to events in the story arc, usually moments of crisis.

Still, the novel has long had its own unit for breaking the story into parts: the chapter. The chapter is a flexible unit. Some authors use short chapters and some use long ones. Chapters generally have some unity of theme or action, but no one suggests that they always delineate the major turning points of a story. They might better be described a "beats" in the story.

Is it really useful to import the very mechanical function of the Act from the stage to other media that do not share the same constraints of place and time. Some seem to think so. And some seem to stumble over it. Given this I would say that if you are writing for the page, use the concept if you find it useful; ignore it if you don't. But if you are writing for the stage, you are pretty much bound to follow it, and, to a lesser extent, for the screen as well.