Plot Your Novel with the Three-Act Structure

with Denise Santomauro

Writing Stories with the Three-Act Structure

July 26, 2023 | 4 Weeks |


Text and Live Video

$295.00Enroll Now

Plot with purpose.

Plotting a novel can be a daunting task, one that leaves our hands sweaty and makes us reconsider why we chose to write one in the first place. By studying the classic three-act structure and its use throughout storytelling forms, we can make that task a little lighter and find new ways to bring our stories to life.

In this class, we will explore the acts of the three-act structure in detail. Each week we will cover an act from the three-act structure in depth, providing the opportunity to learn about and discuss the structure one act at a time. In between classes, you will apply the lesson to your own story and build your outline in stages. You will also learn about how the main points of the three-act structure are connected and intertwined with your protagonist’s character or emotional arc, and how to up the stakes at each stage of the plot arc.

Writers at any stage of the drafting process will benefit from this course. Even if you’ve already drafted a story, plotting your novel is incredibly useful as you jump into revision! While the three-act structure is a great tool for crafting memoirs, this class will be focused on its application in fiction.

Learning and Writing Goals:

Learning Goals

In this course, you will:

  • Deepen your understanding of the ins and outs of the three-act structure
  • Explore how the three-act structure applies to your story

Writing Goals

In this course, you will:

  • Workshop your outline in the online portal to get feedback from the instructor and fellow students
  • Draft a complete outline using the three-act structure

Zoom Schedule

Each week, we will meet on Zoom for a lecture, discussion and Q & A, and some generative writing exercises. All of the meetings will take place on Tuesdays from 7-8:30pm Eastern, beginning August 1st.

You will also have the option of a one-on-one meeting with the instructor.

Weekly Syllabus

Week One: A Star Is Born (Developing Your Protagonist)

The three-act structure is almost always character driven, so you need to get to know the star of your book! Week one will cover how to develop your protagonist in a way that sets them up to drive the story, and in turn the plot.

Assignment: Complete character development exercises on main character and create a one-page summary of story.

Week Two: Act One—Let’s Get this Started!

Where in the world are we? When in time are we? What do we need to know about this world and the main character? Week one will dig into worldbuilding and the major turning points in act one—the inciting incident and the first plot point. We’ll explore how those points catapult your protagonist and reader into the story.

Assignment: Begin outline, focusing on act one.

Week Three: Act Two—Climbing the Mountain

Now comes the hard stuff. Week three will cover the rising action, introducing allies and friends and challenges for your protagonist to face, before moving into the two major turning points in act two—the midpoint and the second plot point. We’ll take a look at how these points set your protagonist and reader on a collision course with the climax.

Assignment: Add to outline, focusing on act two.

Week Four: Act Three—Let’s Wrap this Up

Week three will rip your heart out as we explore the pre-climax, or all is lost section, how losing everything challenges your protagonist, and then the last two elements of the three-act structure—the climax and the denouement. We’ll cover how the previous events in the story have built to the final epic moment for the protagonist, and how to guide the reader out of the story.

Assignment: Complete outline, focused on act three.

$295.00Enroll Now

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Student Feedback for Denise Santomauro:

Denise’s knowledge and experience come through in subtle but effective reframing techniques that helped me sidestep my own doubts and find new excitement for writing. Holly Chaille

Denise was phenomenal to work with. What a kind and patient human being with incredible knowledge and a real heart to help writers grow. Britt J. Benson

Denise is a wonderful mentor who provided tools and actionable steps to enable me to see the heart and voice of my story. Anonymous

Ever had one of those stories you’ve looked at a thousand times and rewritten a hundred ways? Ever decided that your narrative is so far down the rabbit hole there is no hope? I’m here to tell you there is hope and comes to you as Denise Santomauro. She can see the story’s thread through the royal tangled mess you’ve made of it. Denise has a clear vision, a love of language, and spot-on critique. She’ll get you untangled. She’s wonderful! J.A. Cameron

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About Denise Santomauro

Denise Santomauro is a writer, editor, author coach, and teaching artist. She has worked with writers across genres and styles of writing, everything from secret society mysteries and sweeping fantasies to thoughtful contemporary stories and heart-wrenching memoirs. As an educator, she has taught fiction, personal essay, poetry, and playwriting, and explored the performing arts with young people as a way to help them tell their stories. In her own writing, she has developed plays and scenes for young people, written middle grade and young adult novels, contributed content to many blogs, been published in the Dear Sister anthology, and performed her own personal essays at live lit events around Chicago. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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