writing act three

writing act three

It can be frightening and exhilarating to realize that our story is bigger than we are, that in fact, it does not “belong” to us, that we are simply a channel.

In Act Three of our story, our hero comes to a point where he accepts the reality of his situation. Every writer struggles with the third act. If you find yourself panicking and thinking, “I don’t have an ending!” — relax, and trust that everything you need to know is within you.

It can be frightening to ask, “What if?” But asking “what if” is the stuff of great movies and books. Asking “what if” is the stuff of Act Three. Act Three is about surrendering the old story. What if we allowed our idea of our story to collapse? What if we accepted that we just didn’t know? Wouldn’t we be exactly where our hero is? And how would that alter our perception? Well, hasn’t the hero spent the entire story pursuing his “idea” of how he thinks things should go? And how has that been working? It hasn’t.

Act Three is where a paradigm shift occurs. It happens as the result of our hero surrendering his old identity. The challenge is that we must trust our hero’s transformation, even if we don’t know how it is going to happen. Sounds sort of like life, doesn’t it? We must bypass all of our conditioning, all of our cynicism, all of our ambition, and trust in that childlike place, that place where we are naturally moved by the truth of our story.

This is not weak sentimentality. But I am talking about love, the basic truth of the universe that lies at heart of our story despite the tone, despite the genre, despite whether it is a happy ending or a tragedy. The fundamental nature of love dwells at the heart of every story. It is the thing that is always on the table.

As we inquire more deeply, images may appear that begin to reveal an ending. We will know the ending is right because it rings like a bell. We have found some kind of order in the chaos. Our hero has been returned home.


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