Writing rules: The three act structure and when to break it

I was about to write about the new years resolutions (and I think I still will, some time later), but something got my attention just recently, so I thought to discuss that instead.

You might know that one of the classic rules in writing (including theather, TV shows and movies) is a „three act structure“.

In short:

Act One introduces the hero and their motivation.  We (readers/viewers) get to know their everyday life. We learn who our hero is. Then an inciting incident needs to happen to move the protagonist out of their comfort zone. Frodo needs to leave the Shire so that the story can happen. If he stays in the Shire, there is no story. Or there is, but it is very short.

Act Two increases the stakes. The danger becomes a lot more frightening or an obstacle much bigger, in this phase. Neo learns from the Oracle that he is not The One and he is given a chance to save Morpheus, but needs to sacrifice himself.

Act Three is the final confrontation and resolution between the hero and the villain or the antagonist, and it ends in resolution, where the hero comes out victorious or in some other way changed. Luke destroys the Death Star despite all odds.

The three act structure was originally introduced by Aristotle Poetics in 330 BC and further strengthened by Syd Field in 1979 in his Foundations of Screenwriting. The three act structure remained a milestone for the last 2 millennia, with film producers being so rigid that they expect an inciting incident on a page 25 of a 100 page script, and if they don’t see it, the script goes straight into the bin.
But here is the fun fact. 
Aristotle didn’t make up the three act structure. He described it based on the plays he had witnessed during his life, realizing which plays were successful and which weren’t. Clearly the three act structure was – and still is – successful. 

But think about it for a moment. 

Aristotle was analyzing the plays and theatre pieces he witnessed and then described what he saw. That means that the three act structure existed before Aristotle described it and that play writers of the time were doing the three act structure spontaneously because they felt this was the best way to tell a good story.
Now, a lot of writers follow this structure because they read time and again in all sort of craft books that it works. Plot your three act structure and you’ll have a story. Don’t plot a structure, and you will fail. So many writers do plot their stories in three act structure with specific beats in each. We are taught to do so. And for many writers this is exactly the right thing to do.
But I encountered an issue with this process in the book I am currently writing: I discovered that it hinders me. 
I followed all the rules: I made the scenes, I made the beats, I got my three act structure. But every time I wanted to start writing the novel, I got stuck. The words didn’t flow. I wrote many thousands of words but it was such a struggle, I had to pull the letters out like taking out a bad tooth. It took ages and it simple didn’t sound good. 

I have tried it three times. And each time, I got stuck. First I figured that the reason must have been that I needed more research (and partially it really was so). I can’t write about the 18 century if I don’t know enough about it. So I kept doing research.
Lots of it!
Then I gave it another try.
And it failed again.
After the third try, I came to a conclusion that the book is not meant to be written. 
Or at least not yet. 
(This actually does happen quite often: famous writers like Neil Gaiman and Dan Brown had to leave their work for years before they could come back to it and finish it.)
I thought maybe this is that type of a book.
But I decided to try one last time.
This time, however, I changed something.  
And – to show respect where it’s due – I was inspired by a Becca Syme book  Dear Writer, Are You Intuitive? She talks about a type of writing where a writer discovers the story, discovers its three act structure without specifically plotting it (but the three act structure still happens naturally! Remember, the ancient play writers did it spontaneously on their own before Aristotle came. It is possible.)

So that is what I did: I let my inspiration take the steering wheel. 
And guess what?

It worked!


The words just poured out, from my Muse through my fingers onto the white page.
No effort.
No pressure. 
Just flow.
I am back on track, and that makes me immensely happy!

Sometimes – and this is not only with writing – we need to learn to trust our intuition. And more often than not, it will tell us the truth.
What do you think about this? Do you ever trust your intuition? Did you reject it and afterwards realised you should have listened to it? Or did you listen, and it might have even saved your life (as in, don’t walk down that empty alley)?

Let me know your thoughts! 🙂

Research needed!

I have 38072 words – which translates to 175 pages – done!
38000 words of research, that is  🙂    

But with all the information I’ve gotten so far, it was enough to start writing. The research however is far from over. With every chapter I write (currently 77 pages) new questions come up. And I think the story – though made up – needs to be as close to reality of the 18th century as possible. You wouldn’t think it needs so much research, but the moment you ask yourself some simple questions, you realize it’s needed.

For example, what did people eat, what did they drink? Remember, most of the water, unless it was a mountain spring, was contaminated as there was no sewerage or water control. 

How did they dress (women started wearing knickers, eg. underpans, only in the 19th century!! How, on the Moons of Senthia, did they handle a period, I still have no idea!) And then some larger questions, like the influence of the church on the population or changes in the philosophical views at the time. It all influences the story.

Dan Brown, when addressing the new writers, said “When your readers buy your book, they are not only paying for the words in the book”. Meaning, they are also paying for all the words you deleted, either because they have been edited out so that your story is distilled to enable your reader the best experience possible. But he also means the many words of your research, because although none of your readers will see those words, they will certainly feel if the author did the research or not.

And I completely believe him. Research is mandatory. Because you see, some time in the future, next year, or the year after that, this book will be finished. And in that moment, I will ask you to put away your life, your busy, interesting life where you are the protagonist and the main character in your story. And I will ask you to put aside this particular life for a few hours and give your full attention to my book. To my story.

And this is a lot to ask. 
Your attention, your time, is the greatest currency.

For me to be able to ask something like that of you, I need to do the best job possible, and the research is at the very basis of it, because you will not believe my characters, you will not live in my story, if it doesn’t ring true. 

So, I’ll continue researching and writing, and to you I wish happy reading!

Yours, Tara Jade

“The Vision” Audiobook is…

… not quite ready.

Well, this post was supposed to tell you that the third instalment of “The Vision” in an audio-book version is ready for you and you can listen to it on all audio platforms. However, I just found out that “The Vision” audiobook has by mistake two chapters from “The Senthien” instead of “The Vision”.

I am quite a big fan of Findaway, the company that produces and distributes the audiobooks for independent authors, but sometimes they can really mess things up. I am now in the process of clearing things up with them, but it will take a while until the updated (corrected) audiobook reaches the retailer shops.

In the meantime, to all of you, my lovely readers and listeners, who have already gotten “The Vision” audiobook and bought it before my shout-out: I sincerely apologise that you didn’t get the audiobook I produced for you. Below are the links to the correct chapters: Chapter 2 and Chapter 9. They are in fact quite important for the story and I wouldn’t want you to miss bits of the plot.

If you have any questions or comments, please drop me an email. I’d be happy to hear from you.

Chapter 2 of “The Vision”

Chapter 9 of “The Vision

Leaving the universe

For some time, I have been thinking about something, so I’d like to touch on that topic today.
Many authors stick to one universe, one world they build for their characters. And incidentally, they stick to their characters too.
I never really understood that. I liked it – because I liked the characters – but I didn’t understand why.
The books I have in my “pipeline” are all over the place: thrillers, history romance, science fiction, contemporary romance, mysteries, dramas. The characters are all over the place too. And this is because the stories just come and they don’t decide to sit in the same basket either. So how is it that for many other authors they do?

I will come back to this.
I am currently “setting up my new universe”.  And when I say setting up, I am really just researching what had happened some 300 years earlier. 
Unlike the Uni world 5000 years in the future when I could simply imagine things, in my new story, this “universe” actually existed. I can’t simply make things up.
I can (a little bit) walk out of the truth in order to propagate my plot – and I will –  but I do need to stick to the major guidelines. I cannot swing it too far. 

Another bit that I need to “set up” are my new characters.
These are not Dora and J, or Jane and Sam. These are all new people. The people with histories, sorrows, triumphs, doubts, passions and needs. People with families and friends. People whose minds are closed or open, superstitious or scientific. People who are governed by things they were told by their parents when they were small. People who are changed by the things they lived through which shaped their character.

Real, living people you could almost recognize on the street – after reading the book – 
 if you saw them. This is how true these people have to become.

People I. Don’t. Know. 

Yet, at least.

So I think I understand now. 
Authors stick to the same universe –  the same characters – because they know them so well. Old friends they don’t want to let go.

In one of the beautiful reviews of “The Vision” one reader wrote the following: 

“This is one of the finest Science Fiction series I’ve read in years. I will deeply miss the characters, I’ve come to love them. The ending was unexpected and glorious but I’m not ready to go.“

I know what they mean. I am not ready to let my DOE characters go either.

But, as you have heard me saying many times before, the stories I write just come. They don’t knock, they don’t wait for me to open the door either. They swing through and settle in the middle of my living room without me even inviting them. 

So, I have to write these stories and I have to write these characters. Fighting it is futile. 

But –  I will always miss my time with Dora and J 🙂

Why write at all?

For the majority of authors, the money coming in is just a small, tiny, micro fraction of the expenses a writer needs.

The book editing, the cover illustration and design, paperback formatting and the necessary – and much needed – marketing all writers need to do in order to get any screen time on retailers and book shops (otherwise, though the book is officially there, it might as well be invisible!) make a large chunk of the expenses every writer needs to do.

So, you might be wondering, why do I and my fellow writers, write at all? Because let’s be brutally honest: For most authors, writing is a financial suicide. But here’s a little detail that most non-writers aren’t aware of, and that makes all the difference.

“The Vision” is finally out!

It is time to celebrate. Not only is one book out, but the whole “Descendants of Earth” trilogy is finally complete. Yeey! I am so happy to have it finished. Clearly, the story was roughly there from the start. Those of you who finished the trilogy will know that I sprinkled clues from the beginning on, and they all, hopefully very rewardingly, wrap up in the end.

Considering that “The Senthien” took 6 years to write and “The Mind” 2, “The Vision” was surprisingly faster, only one and a half years from start to finish. (I have author friends who publish 3 books per year, I know, but this is my best timing!) Knowing my pace, I anticipated the book will be out February or March 2022, but I am really happy that the first draft was done pretty quickly and also that the post-production eg, editing process, was done within the “usual” 6 months I had anticipated. No bad surprises there 😉 Which means that “The Vision” came out before Christmas!

I wish I could celebrate this with you, my readers. Especially those of you who read “The Senthien” when it came out, 6 years ago (Ouch! So sorry for the delay). I really do appreciate your patience and your determination to stay with the story and find out what will happen to Dora and J. And not only that, but what will happen to the whole Uni galaxy!

To tell you the truth, when I was writing the first book, I didn’t know this myself. I had a very clear picture of what will happen to Dora and J, including the whole Monica trajectory. And I was so thrilled with the plot line there! I can even tell you that this particular story bit happened while I was driving, with a snowstorm racking the windows of our car, as we were going to see friends in France, some three hours away. I consciously wasn’t thinking about the plot line at all at this moment, but somehow my subconscious did, because all of sudden I had an ending for them.

At any rate, while I knew exactly the story lines for my characters, the whole social and political ending, with millions of Descendants and Humans in Uni galaxy, didn’t have a clear future until only a few months before the first draft of “The Vision” was done. I had various possible futures for it, just like with Dora when the current situation is not clear, many future scenarios are possible as well. I didn’t want to do a book-genocide, but I also didn’t want to let them off the hook either. In the end, with many extremely useful discussions, probing questions and intriguing feedbacks, mainly from the two people, I found my ending. So, to Tom Brown and Jade Phipps, thank you for helping me find the future for Uni 🙂

The trilogy is done.

And as for me? It is time to say goodbye to “Descendants of Earth”, to all my lovely imaginary characters I spend 12 years with, and it’s time to move on. Time to start writing another book, setting up another adventure, getting to know my new characters.

I am so looking forward to my new adventure! I’m sure you will love it too 🙂

How to deal with bad book reviews

Every author will face it: bad reviews. Some more, some less, but in all cases they will hurt. Bad reviews come mostly because your book came into the wrong hands: that reader wasn’t supposed to read your book but based on your cover or summery they thought they are and they read it. So, a large part of potential bad reviews can be avoided with careful considerations when deciding on your metadata: genre selection, book covers, blurbs and such. But even if your metadata is spot-on, you will still end up with some readers that were never meant to pick up your book in the first place. Here is how I dealt with mine.

Michelangelo’s Captives in the Writing World

Michelangelo allegedly said that in every block of marble there is a hidden statue. And I believe the same is true for the blank piece of paper. There is always a story to be told. And as we, writers, put our words down, more and more of the sculpture gets revealed.

The draft for the final DOE sequel is done!

The last few months of finishing the first draft of the novel, I focus so much on the writing that I almost completely disappear from the social media world. The good news is that the draft for final sequel of “Descendants of Earth” trilogy is finished and I am super happy about that. Still some work ahead before it´s ready for publishing but the ending is near and within a few months, I´m happy to tell you that the book will be available.