To Three Act or Not Three Act?

Hello readers!

I’m still plugging away on my main project Alone: Psi-Mage. If I was using the three act structure of writing, which I don’t really do. I’d say act I is almost wrapped up. Most of the main characters have been introduced and the “super powers” have been more or less established.

Some people love “three act”, others believe it’s the devil. Should we arbitrarily impose a structure on our stories? In my opinion writers should be able to use as much or as little structure as they’d like.

I’m a “discovery” writer, meaning I get a story started from an idea or two and run with it. Making it up as I go along. The problem with that method is sometimes the author could get lost in the bushes by the side of the road while missing the more important parts.

So what does that have to do with Alone: Psi-Mage?

Well Alone: Psi-Mage is basically a “body off frame restoration” of my first version of this story entitled “Alone.”

How different is it? Well… It’s written in 3rd person instead of 1st. The main viewpoint character shifted, and I’ve added the perspective of the “Big Bad.”

Most of the main plot points are the same but I’ve moved, removed or added ones that seem to fit better. I’m trying to make the overall narrative flow better, among several other improvements. Because when I started the first version I really didn’t know where I was going. Now I do. I already know what I want to happen (more or less) and I’ve decided to at least give the three act a cursory glance. Why, because I think many stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Some people might disagree, but usually once the pieces are set up, they get moving, run into problems, fail, fail, win, and eventually come to the climax where the story gets resolved. If it’s the heroes win, everybody dies, or something in-between.

Shoehorning your story to fit a three act when it doesn’t need to on the other hand…

So anyway here’s a snippet from chapter 14, it should be in your inbox a bit later this week.

For a college student in a nuclear engineering program he discovered Katrina wasn’t very bright. Sure she knew her formulas, theories, and periodic table but street smarts were lacking.

“So do you have a long term food supply?” he asked.

She was silent for too long on the other end of the line, “Umm… I don’t know I’d just been getting food from the campus market.”

“Most of which spoiled a long time ago right?”

“Yea, I shoved it all the perishables in a dumpster out back. Why?”

His phantom left leg began to ache, for some reason he could feel its absence more than his right. He rubbed his stump to get it to stop. “Look you’re going to need more food than what is in that little convenience store to get you through the winter.”

“Oh… I hadn’t thought that far ahead. So I’ll walk down the road to one of the grocery stores.”

“Be careful, if they’re anything like we have here you’ll probably run into some feral dogs.”

“Feral dogs? Why would they…”

Martin leaned back in his wheelchair and stared up at the stained ceiling tiles, “Nobody’s feeding them anymore. They’ve begun to run in packs, scavenging and hunting for food. Sarah was chased earlier today.”

“What can I do?”

“Shoot them.”

“Shoot them?” She replied aghast. “I… I don’t have a gun, and I wouldn’t know where to begin. And I don’t know if I could shoot someone’s pet.”

“Listen to me Katrina, these aren’t pets anymore. They’re hungry predators with sharp teeth. They may avoid you… but they might not.”

“Where would I get a gun anyway?”

Martin sighed, “Who carries… carried guns on your campus?”


“Nobody? Are you sure?” He shook his head, “Doesn’t MIT have a campus police force? Or what about Boston PD?”



“MIT is in Cambridge, not Boston.”

“Whatever… everything east of the Mississippi is one big urban blur to me.”

“Well at least I don’t live in flyover country.” She replied.

Martin bit his tongue, getting into a stupid fight right away was for lack of a better term stupid. “Katrina, hey I’m sorry. Look I’m just trying to help you out. The old rules don’t apply anymore. If you get into trouble you won’t be able to pick up the phone and call for help. Plus there’s the aliens.”

He looked up at Sarah who was sitting in an office chair, spinning around in lazy circles. She glanced at her monkey lemur thing the same time he had said the word aliens. Something just didn’t feel right.


“You don’t believe what took billions of people away was a natural occurrence do you?”

“No I guess not.” She said in a quiet voice. “I… I had hoped that aliens, if there were any would have been friendly.”

“Now we know the truth. The universe is a cold cruel place.”


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