Hi Harvey. I have a question about overall plot structure and pacing of the action.
Ande Waggener's "Story Staircase" (in Novel Writing Made Easy) resembles your plot diagram in some ways. She gives page targets for a three act plot in an 80,000 word, 320 page novel, where Act 1 contains the first 25% of the text, Act 2 50%, and Act 3 the remaining 25%.
Randy Ingermanson ("the Snowflake Guy") in Fiction Writing for Dummies, also divides plot into three acts, with 3 disasters placed at the 25, 50, and 75-percent of text markers. The first disaster ends Act 1; the third disaster ends Act 2, and the second disaster props up "the sagging middle" of Act 2. He compares it to an American football game that is divided into four 15-minute quarters. Act 2 takes up the middle half (2nd and 3rd quarters) of the plot with a disaster in the middle (50% of text) and end of Act 2 (75% of text). He concedes that a novel might have four or five disasters, but the last one sends the plot into "the final quarter" where everything needs to be wrapped up.
My novel has three acts and three disasters, but does not fit the 25-50-75% pattern. My question is, do I need to revise my novel to get my disasters moved up to the 25-50-75-percent plot points?"
- George F. Montgomery, Waterford, MI
Good question, George. You are quite right - in my material on plot structure, I deliberately do not talk about percentages or number of pages. That is quite deliberate.
The reason I haven't talked about certain events in a novel needing to occur after a specific number of pages or a specific percentage of text is that it is totally artificial in my opinion. (I have total respect for the writers you have mentioned, but disagree with them on turning creative writing into a numbers game.)
Actually, the film industry is worse than the novel writing industry in this regard. In some books on writing screenplays, authors actually say things like: "such-and-such must happen on page 32". Says who?!
It reduces the writing of fiction to a formula. Of course, all fiction is formulaic to an extent, in that it all follows a very similar three act structure. But to be so specific as to say that something must happen at the 25% mark, the 50% mark, and so on, is totally wrong in my opinion.
Yes, novels share a lot in common, but they should all be individual, too, because that is what makes them interesting and worthwhile and not all clones of each other.
All writers must follow the "rules" of how to plot a novel to an extent, because this ensures that a story is gripping and keeps the readers turning the pages. But their instincts must play a large part in the process, too. For example, if it feels right that the opening act of your novel accounts for 15% or 35% of the text, it probably is right.
It is the decisions you make that bend or break the rules that make your novel unique. (But you have to be a master of the rules first - and you can do that by reading the comprehensive section on plot right here on this site.