3-ACT STORY Act 1 is the “Beginning”, where information is setup to provide CONTEXT for the story. Act 2 is the “Middle”, where characters attempt to achieve GOALS and encounter CONFLICT. Act 3 is the “End”, where there is a RESOLUTION to the CONFLICT and our character’s character is revealed.
PANEL 1 (YELLOW) IS ACT 1. IT PROVIDES THECONTEXT FOR THE STRIP, ANSWERING THE 5W’S:WHERE, WHEN, WHO, WHAT AND WHY.
5 W’S Where are we? A white space. We may be inside or we may be outside, it doesn’t matter. The rest of the strip should make sense without that information. (If it doesn’t make sense, then Bill should have clarified). When are we? Day or night is not specified, so it shouldn’t matter for the rest of the strip to make sense. (But it is set post-1932. How do we know that? The character is playing Superman, who was created in 1932.) Who is involved? A kid. We know his name is Calvin from the title of the strip, Calvin & Hobbes, but within the CONTEXT of Panel 1, it doesn’t matter. All we really need to know is that the character is a kid who plays pretend.
5 W’S What are they doing (their GOAL)? Playing Superman. And we know that by the use of Superman’s trademark line “Up, up and away!” along with the cape. & Why are they doing that? Probably because playing Superman is fun.Now that the CONTEXT has been established, wewant to see the character attempt to achieve a GOALand face CONFLICT in Act 2.
PANEL 2 (BLUE) SHOWS THE CHARACTER TRYING TO ACHIEVE THEIRGOAL – THE WHAT FROM PANEL 1 PUT INTO ACTION. IT CAN ALSOBE CALLED THE PREMISE OF THE STRIP.
BUT THERE IS NO STORY WITHOUT A PROBLEM. SO, THERE MUST BE CONFLICT.SOMETHING (A PERSON, A THING, FATE, OR A FORCE OF NATURE) MUST CONFLICTWITH THE CHARACTER’S GOAL.THIS CONFLICT BRINGS THE POTENTIAL DEATH OF THE PREMISE.
IN PANEL 3 (RED), GRAVITY PREVENTS CALVIN FROMFLYING (CONFLICT). WILL THIS BE THE DEATH OFPLAYING SUPERMAN?!
IN PANEL 3 (RED), GRAVITY PREVENTS CALVIN FROMFLYING (CONFLICT). WILL THIS BE THE DEATH OFPLAYING SUPERMAN?! NO! Calvin continues to play Superman despite the reality of his situation, thus revealing something about his character. Character is revealed through conflict and Panel 4 (green) is where we get to see that.
PANEL 4 IS THE RESOLUTION OF THE CONFLICT, AND THATRESOLUTION LETS THE READER KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT YOURCHARACTER. This is where you get to show how your character behaves or thinks. In a well-written comic strip, it results in something funny or unexpected. Calvin has every reason to give up pretending to be Superman but he refuses and improves his way back into play. Why? Because play is more fun than reality (and if you’ve read Calvin & Hobbes, you’ll know just how true that is for Calvin).