The Writing Process: Three-Act Structure, and the 8-Point Arc (Ep. 12)


Greetings, fellow literary people!

This week, Jennifer discusses how Peter Brooks and THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins set up and resolve key conflicts to satisfy our desire for the end.


“When we begin a novel, we expect the literature to pay off.”

The three-act structure is handed down from the theatre of Ancient Greece, while the 8-point Arc is given to us by author Nigel Watts. Both successfully develop a story by stimulating your readers’ reactions and emotions in different ways. I will be going through The Hunger Games by Susan Collins, so if you haven’t read the books and plan to be surprised by the narrative, you should not continue watching this video.

Act 1

Stasis – Establishes setting and current situation.

  • Collapsed America, day of the reaping, District 12, Katniss is a victim of the war.

Trigger – An event kick starts a transition of new events or ideas.

  • Younger sister Prim is chosen as the female tribute, Katniss volunteers in her stead.

Act 2

Quest – The trigger leads us to the quest. This journey reveals many surprises (the fourth point on our list) that test our characters’ strengths and weaknesses that help or hinder their goal or mission.

  • Katniss trains, deals with Peeta’s crush.
  • She also flees the cornucopia, blows it up, and gains sponsors.

Critical Choice – Your Main Character has to make a real decision that uncovers his or her potential to fail or succeed. As the character takes a new direction, so does the narrative.

  • When Rue is killed, Katniss compares her to a helpless animal. Katniss sings to Rue, and as the mockingjays echo the melody, Katniss decides to decorate Rue’s body in wildflowers. Such an honest act of humanity. And then, Katniss decides to conquer the Capitol. She chooses to no longer be a victim and become the woman who can defeat injustice.

Climax – The result of the critical choice and the highest peak of tension.

  • Katniss outlives the other tributes, witnesses the morbid transformation of past tributes in the eyes of the mutations, and witness Cato’s grotesque death.

Act Three

Reversal – Whatever role the character filled before their quest transforms into the reverse.

  • Katniss makes the final choice to transform from victim to hero by threatening suicide. In this single act, she finally gains control of her own fate.

Resolution – Tension winds down, and the Main Character returns to a state of consistency.

  • Katniss’ injured appearance is contrasted with the luxurious training center, suggesting the Capitol is still superior. However, this emphasis just how powerful the districts have become, and how threatened the Capitol really feels. Although one story has ended, Katniss and Panem must deal with the repercussions of her critical choice and reversal.

Peter Brooks argues the transformation of the narrative depends on the likeness and difference in the middle. The pleasure of the middle ground is achieved by repeating conflicts until they are mastered and controlled. When a writer fails to present and tie up conflicts and transformations, the reader searches for resolutions that aren’t there. Meaning is most fulfilling when gained in the end.

Meaning must be earned.


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