Spotlight on Analysis - The Three-act Structure

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Three- act structure (taken from:

The three-act structure is a model used in writing and in evaluating modern storytelling that divides a fictional narrative into three parts, often called the Setup, the Confrontation and the Resolution.


Act 1

The first act is usually used for exposition, to establish the main characters, their relationships and the world they live in. Later in the first act, a dynamic, on-screen incident occurs that confronts the main character (the protagonist), whose attempts to deal with this incident lead to a second and more dramatic situation, known as the first turning point, which (a) signals the end of the first act, (b) ensures life will never be the same again for the protagonist and (c) raises a dramatic question that will be answered in the climax. The dramatic question should be framed in terms of the protagonist's call to action, (Will X recover the diamond? Will Y get the girl? Will Z capture the killer?). This is known as the inciting incident, or catalyst.

Act 2

The second act, also referred to as "rising action", typically depicts the protagonist's attempt to resolve the problem initiated by the first turning point, only to find him- or herself in ever worsening situations. Part of the reason protagonists seem unable to resolve their problems is because they do not yet have the skills to deal with the forces of antagonism that confront them. They must not only learn new skills but arrive at a higher sense of awareness of who they are and what they are capable of, in order to deal with their predicament, which in turn changes who they are. This is referred to as character development or a character arc. This cannot be achieved alone and they are usually aided and abetted by mentors and co-protagonists.

Act 3

The third act features the resolution of the story and its subplots. The climax is the scene or sequence in which the main tensions of the story are brought to their most intense point and the dramatic question answered, leaving the protagonist and other characters with a new sense of who they really are.

Mandrake the Magician - Three-Act Structure analysis

The Cobra (the first daily story)

Act I

Ambassador VanderGriff urged inspector Ralph Sheldon of the U.S. Secret Service to visit him at his home. Sheldon brought with him his daughter Barbara and his assistant, Tommy Lord. When they arrived VanderGriff told Sheldon that some secret papers had disappeared from his hidden wall safe. The ambassador said if the papers were revealded, four nations would rise in a world-wide revolt that would smash civilization.
Suddenly, the lights became dimmer and dimmer and then, someone knocking on the door. Sheldon opens the door and sees Lothar, who then introduces Mandrake. Mandrake magically suspended VanderGriff servant, Mee-Kee, in mid-air, forcing him to tell who stole the papers from the safe. The Cobra, a fanatical leader of a powerful secret society that seeks to control the word, and a powerful magician as well.
Mandrake concentrated, and created a shadow-image of The Cobra. Then he said to Sheldon that he had to leave immediately, east for thirty days to Tejei, crossing three oceans to find the papers -and The Cobra. Then, suddenly, a pouff - smoke, and Mandrake and Lothar had disappeared.
Sheldon, his daugther and assistant boarded an Ocean Liner heading east.

Act II

See also

Wikipedia-logo.png This article, in the version of July 22 2013‎ about: Structure, includes information from Wikipedia: Three-act structure.

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