On Writing, Plot & Structure

Story Structure: Act 3 (Epiphany)

October 12, 2012

In previous posts, we’ve discussed key structural guideposts for writing your novel. Our last post on structure discussed the second turning point.

Following the second turning point – a place in the story that sees the hero beaten down and discouraged – we arrive at Act 3.

In the concluding scenes of Act 2b, it doesn’t seem things can get any worse. But – in a well-constructed story – of course, they do.

In fact, as Act 3 unfolds, the hero experiences his lowest moment. He hits rock bottom. For the antagonistic force, victory seems assured – and the hero sees it that way too. The hero is at the point of despair.

Then,  a beam of light shines into the hero’s dark pit of despair.

The hero sees a way out of his dead end. Often, it’s a long shot, last chance, last ditch effort that carries only a slim possibility of success.

This moment of “seeing the light” is called the Epiphany. It’s a moment of illumination in which a new possibility (and usually new information or a new realization) brings with it a surge of hope and a renewal of energy.

Some examples:

  • In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry tricks Hagrid into blurting out that the way to tame Fluffy – the monster guarding the solution to his troubles – is to play music.
  • In Star Wars, it’s when Luke hears the general explain the weak point in the Death Star.
  • In Bridget Jones’s Diary, it’s when Bridget learns that the man she thinks is Mr. Right is Mr. Wrong, and vice-versa, ensuring that she has a chance – although now a slim one – to set her sights on the right Mr. Right.
  • In The Fugitive, it’s when the hero who is trying to clear his name finds that a new suspect is the murderer and that the murderer is employed by Nichols  a corrupt executive (enabling the hero to potentially serve up to the justice system, not only the actual murderer, but also a motive for the murder).


The Epiphany provides the story with a renewed burst of energy. The reader is now rooting for the hero to prevail, no matter how slim the chances. If the writer has done his job well, the reader is in a state of suspense that keeps him/her turning pages.

Happy writing!

Watch Jessica Hatchigan’s video tutorial – “How Bestselling Authors Create Pageturner Novels: Plot & Structure ” instantly on your PC, Mac, compatible TV or device via Amazon.com’s instant video


Image: YFCAD TEch

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