Skip to main content

Act Three: Resolution

By Michael Schilf · January 24, 2010

The audience has seen the journey through which our protagonist has traveled. Yet the audience still wants reassurance that all is well, that the characters have changed, and a glimpse of his/her future.

Once the second act is resolved, there is usually a twist and new confrontation, which pushes us into the third act conflict. Often this is the result of the plot and subplot main culmination: the conflicts of the plot and sub-plot colliding.

In the third act, the protagonist will demonstrate his/her character arc in the manner in which he/she chooses to resolve the third act conflict. (For instance: In the beginning, a low-down character may choose to lie or cheat to resolve an issue, but since his/her arc has taught him/her morals, he/she tries to honestly resolve the situation).

The character’s new vision and his/her attempt to end the third act conflict leads us to the obligatory scene – a big scene which the audience has been waiting for since the story began.

After that, you have the descending part of the story where we see what happened after the evil won, lost, or whatever. You see ho they live afterwards. And the function of the twist in the middle of the third act is the last test. You shouldn’t believe the solution, very often, if it came directly from the resolution. So you come with something that once more offers the character a possibility to try for the last time, in a different manner. 

The main story and subplots are all resolved in differing ways, but all with some sense of finality, the feeling that the conflict is over. 


CONDENSED: Fast. Organized. No new characters. No new locations. The story is unraveling. 

TWIST: The final twist is a surprising, explainable, and motivated change in direction of the action. 

FINAL CULMINATION: Up to this point, our hero has been tested, has tried everything he could, and there is only one way left, because all the alternatives were presented and eliminated, and therefore, comes the final culmination, often where the main plot and sub-pot collides, which propels our hero head on into a new confrontation with the inevitable. 

CHARACTER ARC: The main character is now in a new situation with a new tension, and he/she must have opportunities to go back to the old character and see if there is a change. There should be. 

OBLIGATORY SCENE: The obligatory scene the scene the at the end of the film in which the viewer has been waiting and looking forward to. If tension is an eager anticipation of the future, then the obligatory scene is one that the viewer almost consciously expects. In a way, it has been promised to the audience

RESOLUTION: This is the end. The third act conflict is complete, character arc complete, all issues resolved, and the audience sees the new status quo – or what the future holds for the characters.