The Three Act Structure: A Lesson From Stephen J. Cannell

The three act structure. Chances are you’ve heard this writing term referenced in workshops, how-to guides and blog posts (you know, like this one). I came across a message board post from paranormal romance bestseller Alyssa Day where she linked to a blog post that finally, finally explained the previously amorphous concept to me.  

The lesson is written by the late, great TV legend Stephen J. Cannell. And man, could Cannell write. Chances are, if you watched TV, oh, ever, in the 70s or 80s or 90s, you saw one of his shows. From The Rockford Files to The A-Team to Baretta to Silk Stalkings to, my personal favorite, 21 Jumpstreet. Cannell created them all. You read that right, we can thank Cannell for bringing us Johnny Depp. I know.

In addition, Cannell was a great teacher. His lecture is informative and clear and will help lead you through just what the three-act structure is and how it can help you avoid bogging down your manuscript in the middle. Give it a read, you’ll be glad you did.

- Elissa Petruzzi