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The plot point, the darkest moment, and the answered question: three ways of modelling the three-quarter-point

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Many contemporary screenplay manuals, following Syd Field, encourage writers to place an act break approximately three-quarters of the way through the story. Although this would appear to be an area of widespread agreement, this essay argues that the manuals do not always define the 3/4-point in the same way. One common approach is to define the 3/4-point as a causally significant plot point; another approach is to regard it as an extreme point on an emotional curve, typically the darkest moment; and a third approach is to conceive of the 3/4-point as the answer to a previously introduced question. Taking a closer look at these three competing models of the 3/4-point can help us uncover the manuals' competing assumptions about narrative structure, showing how they conceptualize causality, emotion and comprehension.
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Keywords: causality; emotion; interest; screenplay manuals; three-act structure

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Communication, Trinity University.

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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  • The Journal of Screenwriting aims to explore the nature of writing for the moving image in the broadest sense, highlighting current academic thinking around scriptwriting whilst also reflecting on this with a truly international perspective and outlook. The journal will encourage the investigation of a broad range of possible methodologies and approaches to studying the scriptwriting form, in particular: the history of the form, contextual analysis, the process of writing for the moving image, the relationship of scriptwriting to the production process and how the form can be considered in terms of culture and society. The journal also aims to encourage research in the field of screenwriting, the linking of scriptwriting practice to academic theory, and to support and promote conferences and networking events on this subject.
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