Why I’m using Acts instead of Chapters

A typical 300 page or 80k+word novel will have anywhere between 30 and 60 chapters that cover the typical beats of a 3 act story structure.

Now there is nothing wrong with this. This is fine and I’m sure plotters get a lot of use out of it. But I’m a pantser and I’m writing pulp

My novellas follow a 5 act structure to cover the 40k word count or 150 pages.

Each act should be a self contained pulp fantasy western story

Conflict introduced – Conflict resolved

Act 1

The Duke and The Dragon

Mouse is a hired gun for the Duke’s hunting party

The hunt is Dangerous

Mouse fights wolves

The Duke hunts falcons from inside the safety his hired and loyal men create

Conflict introduced

Mouse and the men risk there lives to protect the duke who doesn’t come close to danger. But the duke’s personal bard sings of the duke’s heroism and skill in hunting and the men who haven’t faced danger cheer the story

Conflict resolved

Mouse and the men have a private meeting with the duke where he learns more about them and their pasts, their families, and shows that he actually cares about the men under his command both the temporary hired and the loyal men from the kingdom

Act 2

Conflict introduced

Mouse and the men need a plan to hunt a specific bull of the duke’s choosing but they don’t know which bull the duke will want to hunt

Conflict resolved

They “red team” each others plans and come up with a plan for each of the wild herds prize bulls

and the hunt starts

Act 3

Conflict introduced

The duke has trouble with ladies and Mouse offers him bad advice (get really drunk)

Conflict resolved

The duke becomes so drunk that he almost challenges Mouse to a duel. Which if he lost Mouse would become the Duke of Rose-Scent…

So the duke’s tutor casts a magic spell to distract the duke.

She creates an illusion in the sky to make a thunder cloud look like a dragon. The duke passes out before he can finish his challenge.

Act 4

Conflict introduced

The duke says he had a prophetic dream last night that they will meet a dragon in less than three weeks and he offers extra gold to any of the hired guns willing to stay. After testing the duke’s memory of last night, Mouse thinks that this is clearly the duke misunderstanding the magic from last night and there is no dragon.

Conflict resolved

As they march north it becomes clear that there is a strong magic caster killing virgins. They are attacked by a flame avatar of a dragon. There might be a dragon involved…

Act 5

Conflict introduced

Yes there is a dragon

Conflict resolved

Yes they fight a dragon

In the Duke and the Dragon

This final climax is the hunting of a dragon. But it is not the focus of the any Act except Act 5. Act 1 is an introduction to the dangers of the Freeland and the Duke’s hunt. Act 2 shows how Mouse navigates as a scout and a ladies man. Act 3 is where the story turns from Mouse being competent to Mouse losing and the final conflict is spelled out for the reader. Act 4 is resolution of logistics necessary for the final conflict as well as a minor conflict that feeds into the climax. Act 5 uses as many tools from the previous acts to bring about a satisfying resolution to the novella.

Each act consists of as many scenes either written in traditional format or in vignettes as is necessary to give a successful resolution to the introduced conflict.

Because this is a western I do not linger on descriptions or world-building. If a scene does not contain conflict-resolution then it will be rather short.

The best part about this structure it’s really easy for me as a pantser to use and create a constant quality novella. Each Act is roughly 8k words of minor conflicts and resolutions one major.

Act 1 introduction

Act 2 Rising confidence (the readers confidence in Mouse)

Act 3 The Turn (The Final conflict is revealed)

Act 4 Regaining competence (Mouse adapts and prepares to face the conflict)

Act 5 Climax conclusion

If this was a wonder women comic

Act 1

This is wonder woman (introduction)

Act 2

See how she beats up a bad guy (readers gain confidence)

Act 3

Oh No! She has been tied up (readers worry)

Act 4

She hears the evil plan (readers regain confidence and are excited about the resolution)

Act 5

She could have escaped the whole time.. She saves the day (hurray)

that’s what I have to say about that,

With love,

Hngyhngyhppo

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