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The Third Act Misunderstanding

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Katy133
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The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-11 12:20:27 Reply

Okay, you've seen it a million times in storytelling. It even has its own TV Tropes Page

Two characters are gaining each other's trust, but then Character A discovers that Character B has been keeping secrets from him/her and they part ways. Then when they're apart, they realize they need each other and then get back together during the climax of the story.

What I want to know is, how can you avoid/subvert writing this into your story? In romantic comedies, the "third act misunderstanding" is almost a necessity for the story to feel complete. It's put in a story to add drama, but it's been done so many times that we all know what's going to happen. It just slows the story down now, and it makes the two characters seem like idiots for rejecting each other.

What if the "third act misunderstanding" idea was subverted by having Character A forgives Character B immedietly, much to B's surprise. Not only would it add a new twist to the "third act misunderstanding", but it would also show how strongly the characters now trust/care about/understand each other (aka: character development!). Or would the audience feel cheated by that?

Writers also still use it because the separation shows how much the characters need each other and to add emotion to the story, but aren't there other ways to do this in a story? Any ideas?


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HipnikDragomir
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-11 12:22:37 Reply

I really hate that. It's always so mushy and just makes me facepalm. To avoid it, you can just bring in another problem from the outside, rather than inside (between the couple).


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SnakeSkull
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-11 12:27:00 Reply

See, Shakespear didn't like the idea of all that hob-gob.

There was never any misunderstanding in his plays, just massive amounts of reality inducing death.


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SansNumbers
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-11 12:29:01 Reply

At 6 minutes ago, Katy133 wrote: What I want to know is, how can you avoid/subvert writing this into your story?

The solution is to not write a romantic comedy. There are enough of those as it is.


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FattyWhale
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-11 12:29:02 Reply

Well if nothing happened then it wouldn't be much of a movie would it?


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TDK1987
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-11 12:33:13 Reply

At 2 minutes ago, SnakeSkull wrote: See, Shakespear didn't like the idea of all that hob-gob.

There was never any misunderstanding in his plays, just massive amounts of reality inducing death.

Romeo and Juliet had a pretty big misunderstanding towards the end... though it did result in reality inducing death.

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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-11 12:38:56 Reply

Make all the characters die in a patch of spikes and lava,Then introduce the new main character as a boring lifeless blob,who emits no emotion whatsoever.


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Skaren
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-11 12:43:58 Reply

Why can't-just for once-a romantic comedy ends in disaster, sadness, and self loathing instead of the regular kiss?

Katy133
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-11 12:51:38 Reply

Sorry, part of my original post got cut-off:

What if the "third act misunderstanding" idea was subverted by having Character A forgives Character B immedietly, much to B's surprise. Not only would it add a new twist to the "third act misunderstanding", but it would also show how strongly the characters now trust/care about/understand each other (aka: character development!). Or would the audience feel cheated by that?

Writers also still use it because the separation shows how much the characters need each other and to add emotion to the story, but aren't there other ways to do this in a story? Any ideas?


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saltovergray
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-11 12:54:23 Reply

At 8 minutes ago, adamflecko wrote: Why can't-just for once-a romantic comedy ends in disaster, sadness, and self loathing instead of the regular kiss?

Because it's a romantic comedy, and for it to end that way would go completely against the common traits of romantic comedies.

So basically, it goes against the chemical makeup.


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SnoopyChicken
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-11 13:16:37 Reply

At 46 minutes ago, SnakeSkull wrote: See, Shakespear didn't like the idea of all that hob-gob.

There was never any misunderstanding in his plays, just massive amounts of reality inducing death.

Have you ever even seen a Shakespeare play?

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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-11 13:33:32 Reply

At 1 hour ago, SnakeSkull wrote: There was never any misunderstanding in his plays,

Are you joking?


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chipotleaway
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-11 14:22:23 Reply

At 1 hour ago, SaltshakerClock wrote:
At 8 minutes ago, adamflecko wrote: Why can't-just for once-a romantic comedy ends in disaster, sadness, and self loathing instead of the regular kiss?
Because it's a romantic comedy, and for it to end that way would go completely against the common traits of romantic comedies.

So basically, it goes against the chemical makeup.

So everything romance movie should follow the same format? Whats the point of watching the same thing over and over again. I would watch a movie with a twist ending like that.


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Katy133
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-17 11:27:03 Reply

Then what wabout the idea I had earlier:

At 5 days ago, Katy133 wrote: What if the "third act misunderstanding" idea was subverted by having Character A forgives Character B immedietly, much to B's surprise. Not only would it add a new twist to the "third act misunderstanding", but it would also show how strongly the characters now trust/care about/understand each other (aka: character development!). Or would the audience feel cheated by that?

If you guys saw that in a series (romantic comedy or not), would you feel cheated? Or not?


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karlu20
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-17 11:35:57 Reply

At 5 days ago, chipotleaway wrote:
At 1 hour ago, SaltshakerClock wrote:
At 8 minutes ago, adamflecko wrote: Why can't-just for once-a romantic comedy ends in disaster, sadness, and self loathing instead of the regular kiss?
Because it's a romantic comedy, and for it to end that way would go completely against the common traits of romantic comedies.

So basically, it goes against the chemical makeup.
So everything romance movie should follow the same format? Whats the point of watching the same thing over and over again. I would watch a movie with a twist ending like that.

It doesn't have to end exactly like that (eg. with a kiss), but comedies are the movies that end on an overall good note.


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Ryanson
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-17 11:43:50 Reply

Subvert it by, when the secret is revealed, have the characters forgive each other... just as a life-threatening accident happens and one of them is hospitalized.

Drama.


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Jay
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Response to The Third Act Misunderstanding 2012-02-17 12:47:08 Reply

Meh, when I'm writing stories that include romance and comedy I don't use that misunderstanding/distancing shit. Although I wouldn't consider them romantic comedies because the entire story isn't in the good spirit that the guy will end up with the girl. And it's not even the main point of the story anyway.

Well, actually. I might have the characters distance from each other. But for other reasons. Like, serious problems that maybe one of them sees and the other one has to realize. Or maybe the one who does see the problems needs to realize that they can be over come without giving up on the relationship. Either way. Things are awkward between the two characters, and you may not know exactly you are going to get from them, and at the same time I keep them in character. There is tension built between them, what COULD happen, what MIGHT happen, what's most likely to happen. But the reader won't know until the end, I think that's the best way to go.

When 5 minutes into the movie/book we already know how the story is generally going to progress and end...isn't that kind of sad? You can keep consistency without following the jaded formula of a love story. You just can't keep yourself to a genre or title. "Romantic Comedy"? Why not keep your story as free as possible and just call it a "story" for now? I think it's the labeling that's causing you to only think of the stereotypical love story scenario.