Trying to apply the three act structure to the thriller genre.
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Topic: Trying to apply the three act structure to the thriller genre.

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    Default Trying to apply the three act structure to the thriller genre.

    I was watching this tutorial on the three act structure and they talk about what is sometimes called the "ALL IS LOST" moment. It's described in 6:10 into the video:



    However, I find myself for my story, not really being able to apply much of an all is lost moment, without it coming off as forced. Basically every all is lost I came up with, was unrecoverable. That is, the MC could not get out of it, and all was really lost, to the point where the story was over. So I decided maybe it's best to not have an all is lost moment at all, and just let the characters build to a natural ending, even if it means making decisions, that would not lead to an 'all is lost'. Cause character's making natural decisions is more important, even if it violates the three act structure. What do you think? Is structure more important, than natural, decision making in characters?

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    Last edited by ironpony; 01-15-2017 at 09:47 PM.

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    Anyone?


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    Pro Member   Trying to apply the three act structure to the thriller genre. Mick Scarborough's Avatar
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    These "rules" are not set in stone. The 3 act structure can be achieved without an all is lost moment. If your story is one that just cant have it, then dont have it. The story itself and the way you script it is whats important. Also dont focus on ALL IS LOST. I am sure you can come up with a way to show the protagonist suddenly finds himself losing ground in his quest, which would satisfy the all is lost moment. Its hard to say what to do since we dont have your script but think about your story. As an example you have a cop who is trying to topple an organized crime family. He did great at midpoint by arresting the head of the family on a charge tat would put him away for life. However the all is lost moment comes when the crime family kills the star witness causing the head of the family to be released. Now the crime family knows the angle the cop is using to bust them and takes action to prevent the cop from getting any more on them. The cop has to start from scratch. Thats an all is lost moment.

    Last edited by Mick Scarborough; 01-16-2017 at 08:28 AM. Reason: typo

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    Super Moderator   Trying to apply the three act structure to the thriller genre. Trying to apply the three act structure to the thriller genre. Trying to apply the three act structure to the thriller genre. Trying to apply the three act structure to the thriller genre. mara's Avatar
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    I generally think of it as an "oh shit" moment rather than "all is lost." It's that point when the hero thinks (s)he has it all figured out, only to face one last problem/challenge/issue.

    Screenwriter and script consultant: www.maralesemann.com

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    Okay thanks. Well basically for the last third of my script about, the MC comes up with a plan to get the villains, kind of like a sting operation type plan, in a sense, but in order for it to work, nothing can go wrong for the last third, otherwise the plan falls apart. But because nothing can go wrong, everything is coming together for the MC in the last third, and not sure if that makes it too non-suspenseful or not...


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    Senior Member   Trying to apply the three act structure to the thriller genre. Trying to apply the three act structure to the thriller genre. Trying to apply the three act structure to the thriller genre. Walter B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    ..........but in order for it to work, nothing can go wrong for the last third, otherwise the plan falls apart..
    And that would be the moment were all seems lost. :p
    You just described how to get to that point.
    Your problem is: 1) you have no clue how the MC can still succeed after than and 2) you just want a perfect executed plan. Sounds like the ending of Commando without anyone shooting back.


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    But if the plan falls apart, no way will the villain be dumb enough to fall for another sting operation. He will see it coming a mile away, if he was able to foil the first one, especially now that he would know that the MC is onto him. Plus with only the third act left go, the MC doesn't have time to plan a whole other sting operation from scratch, since there is only 20 minutes of a movie left. So yeah, I figure, if I cannot find away for the MC to recover, after the plan goes wrong, I might as well not have the plan go wrong at all, for the villain to go down. Certain things go wrong, like a cop being killed over it, and the MC having to live with the collateral damage, but the actual plan itself, must still succeed, in order for the villain to be fooled.

    Last edited by ironpony; 01-16-2017 at 10:37 PM.

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    i agree with everyone else. I don’t believe and ‘all is lost’ moment is needed for every script, and the idea may only lend itself to specific genres like a drama, a thriller, or action-adventure. I would think about it instead as as a turning point in the script, a moment where all story turns itself into another, unexpected direction changing our expectation of the outcome. As Mara said, and ‘oh shit!’ moment.

    But more than this, for me two things are important, and nearly necessary within the frame work of a story, in order for it to work. First, ask if the audience knows ‘what’s at stake?’. What will happen if the MC loses, or worse, if the villain, or agent-of-conflict wins? Can this concept be enhanced for dramatical reasons. It’s one thing for a hijacker to take over a bus. It’s another thing if it will explode if its speed drops below 50 mph. It’s one thing for terrorist to blow up city hall, unless the get their ransom money. It’s another if they’ll blow up city hall, and everyone in it, unless they get their money within 15 minutes. What’s at stake, and can you enhance the conflict.

    The second thing is to ask yourself is there a denouement moment in your story. This is more than a reveal, or a grand realization. For me, a denouement moment is a motivating epiphany. It moves the MC into doing something that will push the story towards its resolution. The denouement moment can come before, during for even after your story’s climax.

    The hero learns the villain is his brother and rushes off to stop him.

    The hero learns in the heat of the battle that the villain is his brother, and doesn’t know if he can stop him, much less be forced to kill him.

    The hero learns after the battle that the villain is his brother, and he was the man who killed him.

    Each denouement moment has its repercussions, both to the audience, and the dramatic nature of the story.

    In Rom-Coms the denouement moment is (and it’s a cliché) when the boy realizes that he loves the girl and generally has to run back to her in some over the top way.

    In classical detective stories the investigator gathers around all the suspects and in a procedural fashions explains ‘this is how the killer did it.’
    In many hard-boiled detective stories the detective follows the clues and whether through hard nose determination, or luck (good and bad) he/she figures out who the guilty party is, and works to stop them.

    Do all stories need a denouement moment? No. But they are stronger and better stories if they do.

    - Wolf


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    Okay thanks. Well basically after the MC gets the one cop killed by accident, the cop, before dying, gives the MC some information, which then gives the MC an idea on how what the sting operation needs to be, before the last third of the story. Does this count as a denouement moment possibly?


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    Sounds like it could be, but is it a grand realization for your MC, as much as your audience? Think about the twist in The Six Sense, or Fight Club. Does this realization (in your story) move the plot forward, or motivates your MC?

    Since the cop was killed by accident, what if the cop - the one dying, thinks that your MC did it to him on purpose? Astonished, he asks how did he -- the MC, know that he -- the cop, was working with the bad guys? Your MC didn't, but this new revelation could change every in your story dynamic.


    - Wolf


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    Basically what happens is, is that the MC finds out that the cop is a corrupt cop. The corrupt cop was trying to redeem himself and trying to save the MC by shooting at other armed men who were shooting at the MC. But the MC thought the corrupt cop was trying to shoot him, since he found out the cop was corrupt, so in a split second decision the MC fires off a shot, to stop him from shooting, since the MC thinks he was going to shoot him.

    The MC disarms the corrupt cop after, and tries to find out more, before shooting the corrupt cop again, trying to find out what the corrupt cop is doing there, and if he is a threat. The corrupt cop, gives up info about what he knows to the MC, and them the MC uses this info to start a plan to manipulate the villains into falling into a trap. So the info does motivate the MC into forming a plan for the last third. Or I could write it so that the MC doesn't know the corrupt cop was working for the bad guys and the MC shoots him by accident, and then the corrupt cop tells him after, to try to redeem himself maybe... does that sound better? Or does the MC have more of a reason to shoot the cop, if he knows he is corrupt?

    As for the audience being surprised by this, the audience already knows that that cop is corrupt at this point. I thought it would be best to let the reader know early on, because if I save it till now, in the story, at the end of the second act about, then I will have to show quite a few flashbacks to recap what the corrupt cop was doing this whole time, and how he was corrupt, just so the audience can fill in the blanks. So is it worth, keeping a surprise, if I have to show a large recap after, possibly?


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    I like the second idea. Sometimes it may be best that the audience knows only what your MC does. A good denouement moment, like an epiphany makes sense in hindsight. If things are shown earlier in the film that seem normal, but are reference through dialogue then there should be no need for a flashback -- unless its a quick cut. The corrupt cop should be a reveal and not common knowledge for your audience in order to keep your tension strong and fresh.

    - Wolf


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    Okay thanks. But since the MC does not know the cop is corrupt, I am not sure how I can drop those hints from the MC's point of view. Even though, he knows the cop is corrupt, the audience will not to WHY. And I don't know if the corrupt cop has time to go into a big explanation of everything, and how he was lead down that path, while he is dying in the middle of a gun stand off.

    But there are movies that reveal the corrupt cop early on to build tension and suspense. For example, in the movie The Departed, we know way early on, that Matt Damon is a corrupt cop. If the audience were lead to believe he was innocent for the entire movie, and then we didn't find out until Leonardo DiCaprio did, when Leo is in his office, before the third act, would that have made the movie better? I think it might have made it worse, cause the audience is forced to peace together who the Matt Damon character really is, why is he corrupt, and what he has been doing to feed the villains information the whole time, since we never saw how he was doing it. So wouldn't that have made The Departed worse in a sense?


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    Quote Originally Posted by scooterwolf View Post
    I like the second idea. Sometimes it may be best that the audience knows only what your MC does. A good denouement moment, like an epiphany makes sense in hindsight. If things are shown earlier in the film that seem normal, but are reference through dialogue then there should be no need for a flashback -- unless its a quick cut. The corrupt cop should be a reveal and not common knowledge for your audience in order to keep your tension strong and fresh.

    - Wolf
    Okay thanks. This sounds interesting, looking back at this suggestion! However, wouldn't the corrupt cop assume him being shot was an accident? I mean it it a shootout and gun stand off situation, and the corrupt cop shows up out of nowhere and gets shot as the MC is shooting at the villains, so wouldn't the corrupt cop assume that the MC thought he was one of them at first sight, instead of assuming that the MC knew he was corrupt?


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