Into the Woods - 5 Act Structure

John Yorke’s popular book uses five acts to define story structure. It creates a roadmap of change for a character that echoes the fairy-tale journey ‘into the woods.’ This story structure resonates with readers and works for any genre of fiction. We recommend buying the Into The Woods book to make best use of this plan.

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Act 1

No knowledge > Growing knowledge > Awakening

Your character is introduced and must have a lack of knowledge or clear flaw. There will be an awakening to the idea that some kind of change is needed. Your hero is in their ordinary world and something occurs that means their life is compelled to take a new direction.

Act 2

Doubt > Overcome reluctance > Acceptance

Your character may be reluctant to change or embark on the story’s adventure, but they are compelled into a story world.

Act 3

Experimenting with knowledge > MIDPOINT KEY KNOWLEDGE > Experimenting post-knowledge

Your character will encounter tests, allies, and enemies. They are tested in some way and at the midpoint there is either a victory or defeat that teaches them something valuable.

Act 4

Doubt > Growing reluctance > Regression

Your character will have changed in some way, but not enough to achieve their goal and become whole with their flaw overcome. The protagonist’s weakness is revealed in a low moment of the story where things are worse than ever before.

Act 5

Reawakening > Re-acceptance > Total mastery

Your story is resolved with the character changed and either their goal accomplished or a meaningful defeat.