When writing a blog post or a short article that involves a narrative component or a sustained story of some sort, one of the most effective ways I’ve seen it presented is to break the delivery into three parts. No, I don’t mean, splitting everything into three paragraphs or three numbered sections; instead, we mean using a three-part progression that can genuinely captivate your readers.
The Three-Part Story Structure
For the past thirty or so years, Syd Field has become one of the most successful screenwriting gurus, teaching both aspiring and professional screenwriters how to produce the kind of materials that sell well in Hollywood. His most important contribution, however, came early in his career and cemented his stature: the Paradigm three-act structure of storytelling.
In the Syd Field Paradigm, a Hollywood movie screenplay should be divided into three acts:
Act I (first 20 to 30 minutes): The Setup
Act II: The Confrontation
Act III (last quarter of the movie): The Climax and Resolution
In this Paradigm, Field posits that a film must be set up within the first 30 minutes, well before the “plot point,” where the protagonist finds the goal that must be achieved. After that comes the Confrontation, where the protagonist struggles to achieve that goal. The last quarter of the film should be spent resolving all the questions and issues raised in the preceding events, ideally, in a dramatic and intense manner.
Okay, You’re Not Writing A Movie
I know, you’re not writing a screenplay (heck, probably not even a fictional story), so this shouldn’t matter, right? Well, not exactly, especially if you care about advancing your craft. What Fields managed to articulate with the Paradigm (and later proven by screenwriters that followed after him) is the perfect formula for a story. While it won’t always be the best for a subject (rules always have exceptions), it’s reliable enough to produce a quality presentation of the story every single time, so long as you follow the sequence correctly.
Will this be applicable to everything you write? Probably not. If you have a story to tell and want to genuinely engage the reader while they work through it, however, it definitely won’t hurt to write your article like you’re putting together a movie.
How To Use The Three-Part Sequence In Your Writing
1. Set up your story.
Traditionally, you’ll do this by introducing the subject, the scope of coverage and the different points you will discuss. Sometimes, you’ll even throw in a piercing question, a controversial statement or an interesting fact to pique the reader’s interest.
In the three-part approach, you introduce the story while also inciting an emotional reaction in the reader. How do you do this? By using the introduction to work your way towards the “plot point.” Doing so creates a way for the reader to form an emotional connection with your story, attracting their attention and holding their interest with a potentially compelling narrative.
If you’re not telling a story but want to use the same structure, you can do the same by confronting the reader with a controversial or unexpected statement. Doing so engages their interest and establishes the material as a fresh take on the subject.
2. Keep the action rising.
The second section is called the Confrontation for a reason — it’s where the protagonist takes on his goal and faces up to the obstacles in front of him. It’s the part of the movie that tells the bulk of the story — battles won, battles lost and milestones reached.
If you want to keep readers glued to the page, you have to minimize the lulls by telling the meat of the story at a fast pace. As soon as you reveal the “plot point,” you want to step on the gas, moving things along at a brisk rate. This will comprise the majority of your content, after all, so the less you slack off on the action, the lesser the chances the reader will get bored and move on.
The same holds true even when you’re not telling a story: you want to put out ideas quickly and discuss points without ever bringing your pace to a crawl. In your writing, this will be the body of your content, where you discuss your supporting points, present evidence and make your arguments. While slowing down the reader can be beneficial if the subject you’re discussing is complicated, consider minimizing those slow points. Give your reader some space by writing longer sentences and adding extra pauses, but return to the heightened pace as soon as you’re done.
3. End with a bang.
A lot of writers end articles and blog posts too abruptly, almost as if they’re just glad to have gotten the entire thing over with. While a lot of writing can still turn out very good even with such a lacking ending, it does make your work a lot less memorable.
Think back to movies. Isn’t the ending always the one that you always leave the cinema taking with you? That’s why Hollywood endings often end with a bang: sometimes literally, as in the case of many action movies.
If you want to make your blog post or article memorable, you want to end on a similarly strong note. While shocking endings and cliffhangers rarely work for a lot of non-fiction writing, there are other ways to end your writing that could give it just a little more impact. Try different ones — you’ll eventually find ones that stick.
Additionally, movie endings need to answer all open questions. Otherwise, the viewer feels shortchanged and the movie, generally, feels like it ends in a cop-out. The same thing needs to happen in your resolution: answer all open questions, address all raised issues and tie all ideas together.
Why Write This Way
Sure, you don’t need to write your articles like a movie. In fact, doing so might present a challenge that could turn out either positively or negatively in your favor. Do it right, however, and you just might discover a fresh way to present your ideas: one that’s more engaging and interesting for your readers. Surely, that’s worth a couple of tries, right?