How to Outline: Using the 3 Act, 9 Block Structure: Part 1

Last week, I discussed one of the two methods I used to outline my current work in progress debut, and I plan to continue that trend in this three part miniseries on the 3 Act, 9 Block Outlining Structure. Once again, this method is not of my own creation and  this post will be heavily inspired by Katytastic’s YouTube video, and  Brittany Tenpenny’s blog posts.

In contrast to the Hero’s Journey method, which I discussed here, the 3 Act, 9 Block structure is more detailed. Some call it the 3 Act, 9 Block 27, Chapter structure, because it has 27 parts in total, and each part can be used to create a chapter. I prefer just to call it the 3 Act, 9 Block structure, because it feels less restrictive.

Now, I know this process sounds pretty complex, but trust me, it’s not as bad as it looks. Lets break it down.

There are three main “Acts” in this outline. Act 1 is the Set Up, Act 2 is the Conflict, and Act 3 is the Resolution. Each act then has 3 blocks, or 9 steps, within it. The first 3 steps determine the problem, the next 3 show the effect/conflict with the problem, and the final 3 illustrate a solution to the problem.

I’m going to continue my theme of using movies to illustrate how this works, by expanding on what I already did in my Hero’s Journey post with The Hunger Games. (THG).  This post will cover Act 1, next week Act 2, and the following week, Act 3. Spoilers ahead for THG.  

Act 1 : Block 1 (Set Up)

Intro: This part coordinates with the Ordinary World step of Hero’s Journey. Katniss’s  ordinary world is Distinct 12. She is poor, forced to sneak past the electrocuted fence and Peacekeepers so she can hunt and provide for her family. She and her sister, Prim, live in fear of being chosen at The Reaping, an annual ceremony where one boy and one girl from each of the 12 districts are chosen to fight in a duel to the death, aka, The Hunger Games.

Inciting incident: This can coordinate with The Call to Adventure, where the first major problem arises. In THG, it’s Prrm being chosen at The Reaping.

Immediate Reaction: What happens right after the first major problem is established. In my opinion, this is Prim walking up to the podium, and Katniss volunteering.

Act 1: Block 2 (Climax):

Reaction: This is used to illustrate the long-term effects the Immediate Reaction will have on the characters and the overall plot. For THG, it means that Prim is safe, but Katniss must adjust to life as a tribute and the fact that she will be fighting in a battle to the death with Peeta Mallark, a boy who saved her from starving to death by tossing her a burnt loaf of bread.

*As with the example, this can be a good place to introduce sub-plots, like Katniss and Peeta’s relationship.

Action: Up until now, the protagonist has let the plot happen. Here, they turn the tables, and start taking circumstances into their own hands. I’d say, this is when Katniss shoots her arrow at the GameMakers when they aren’t paying attention, because it is her first rebellious act since becoming a tribute.

Consequence: Exactly what the name says; the repercussions of the hero guiding the story. The GameMakers give Katniss a twelve in training because they don’t want Panem to find out how she disrespected them, and they also start watching her more closely.

Act 1: Block 3 (Resolution):

Pressure:  The protagonist feels the biggest impact that her actions had. In the case of THG, this happens in tandem with Consequence. Katniss, before and after the judging, is banking on her score, because she knows that will determine, in part, at least, how many sponsors she gets. Sponsors are essential because they provide funds to send the tributes life-saving amenities in the Games.

Pinch: The last major conflict, or tipping point. I consider this to be Peta confessing his love for Katniss during the interviews, because it creates tension both between her and Peeta as well as giving the audience insensitive to want to watch them. This causes the Capital to focus on her during the televising of the Games, and allows them to see her rebellious acts. It also solves the “problem” of gaining sponsors for the Games. 

Push: The entry into Act 2. In THG, Katniss enters the arena.

And that’s Act 1 of the 3 Act, 9 Block Structure. Next week, Act 2!

Challenge of the Week: Did this help? Do you agree with how I split up the plot? Why or why not?       



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