Thursday, 10 March 2016

Studying three act structure

I've recently been analysing story structure, particularly the three act structure. I decided to look into it in detail, and chose as my study example the first episode of "Serangoon Road", a HBO Asia production which was set in 1964 Singapore.

I'm not going to go into too much detail because I don't want to spoil it for you, but it's well planned and well written, with a clear structure fitting the classic model of Act 1 as the trigger or call to action, Act 2 where the bulk of the action lies with tension rising and the odds stacked against the main character, and Act 3 the resolution. It's worth heading over to this Wikipedia article to get more depth on this, but here's a brief analysis

Act 1: Although the action begins to minor characters with an incident in a bar, it starts off with the trigger moment for the main character Sam a little way into the episode, with Sam called into action by the widow of his friend, for one last job at a detective agency.

Act 2: The search begins for the suspect, and ends soon after with the suspect in police hands. Whilst watching the first episode I paused it, as the characters had solved the initial private detective mystery as the suspect was apprehended, but it appeared the suspect was actually innocent, but were now at the point of no return as they said "we can't let an innocent man be found guilty for this"; it was exactly where I thought it would be, precisely halfway through the show, and fits in neatly with the structure of story plotting, putting the point of no return half way through. Sam the main character faces a decision, and decides to help the innocent prisoner. 34 minutes into the 53 minute story, the character is told he faces insurmountable odds to assist the innocent prisoner.

Act 3: Then we move into the final act where the main character is forced to take action, and we move into the end game, where all seems lost for Sam the main character and the prisoner whom Sam is trying to save. What happens? Let's just say it fits into the three act structure with an interesting twist or two at the end. You'll have to watch it for yourself to find out, and enjoy it.

It's always interesting to watch shows or movies, or read books, and try to work out when one act ends and another begins, so why not try it the next time you read a book or watch something?