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How important is it to follow the exact three act structure rule in a script and should the same three act rule apply when writing a novel?
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You're overthinking it. Everything in life has a 3 act structure. A beginning, a middle and an end. For most writers the middle is the most intimidating at first. As you go on- I think the ending becomes more difficult. Because it can't simply just stop- it must end. Climax. Come to a satisfactory conclusion. Good luck.
It’s paramount. Narrative structure gives our stories a form the audience can recognize and digest without having the scratch their heads to find out what they’re watching.
For scripts the important thing is to get it written and not worry about this so much. You can always fix or get it more on track with re writes of the draft.
I find it hard, but not impossible, to view a film that doesn't have a three act structure (often a four-act structure when there's a midpoint that twists the narrative in a new direction). This is true going all the way back to the beginning of talkies. (Maybe it's true for silent film too, but I haven't seen much of that with the exception of Chaplin.)
Every worthy story has a certain rhythm and flow to its evolution - that's a given. But it's your choice in applying the development. Some use a 3 act format, some a 4 act format, some include teasers and tags, some don't. Personally, I like to write a story in 12 segments...but that's just me. You go find what works best for you.
What I know is; it's best to let your audience know,
"how your protagonist was living before the initial incident", "what happened and what they have to do about it" and "why they have to deal with the incident".
That's the three act structure...
There is always a start, a middle and an end. The middle tends to be longer. That is life, not just a three act structure.
There are traditions, but you get Memento.
Three acts is just the industry standard not a rule.
Dan Guardino and that industry is the USA industry. Which is the most common currently. I listen and read a lot of europe (especially BAFTA) articles on film and writing. I have heard people talk about the American addiction to the three act structure.
So it also depends on the target audience. It is by far the safest bet.