Your book has covered a lot of ground to reach Act 3. Now its time for reader payoff. If you’re a writer, this critical reader checklist of questions will help you ensure Act 3 is clear and rewarding for readers. If you’re a critical reader, responding to these questions will help you provide invaluable feedback to the writer. (Missed my previous checklists? You may like to start with Chapter 1 or Act 1.)
Story Progression and Reader Engagement
Does each scene build your anticipation of the final resolution of the conflict?
Does each character realisation build towards the character’s Moment of Truth?
(Or even foreshadow their final state, particularly if the character is an antagonist with a positive arc, who changes sides at the end)?
Does the tension of Act 3 pull you in and hold you in from start to finish?
Scene Level Considerations
Do scenes give you enough time to absorb events and information, especially character deaths?
Are there thematic or scene-level elements (too many things going on) which distract you from the resolution or which make it harder to follow?
Are you with the main character, whose at the heart of the action during the climatic moment?
Or does narration flit between point of view characters scattered between conflict locations too often?
Or does the main character observe others actions too much, making this scene feel emotionally distant?
Does anything else distract you, or make you impatient for the scene to get a move on or reduce its tension?
Has the writer positioned you to scream encouragement at the main character through the climactic moment? Are you excited, thrilled or really happy when they triumph? Or shattered if they don’t?
Or did you not connect emotionally to them well enough throughout the novel to care much either way?
Is each aspect of the conflict, and each step of how it needs to be resolved and why clear to you?
Do particular skills or abilities of each pov and secondary character play a relevant and fulfilling role in the resolution of the conflict?
Does the resolution deliver on thematic promises, e.g. character lessons, framing key themes of the story and showing the role they play in the resolution?
Or was it mentioned that Tom needed to learn to make friends, and that subplot was forgotten? Did it play no role in the resolution, breaking that promise to you as a reader?
A Satisfying Ending?
Are you feeling satisfied by the way characters resolve their differences?
By how supporting characters being their typical self helped resolve the story problem?
Are you satisfied with how the story is wrapped up, and with the state in which you depart the story world and its characters?
If not, is this because the ending feels rushed? Or did the story stop too soon, leaving things unresolved that you wanted to know about and which would have made the ending more satisfying for you?
Or does an epic conflict leave the world in a state of devastation, instead of fast forwarding to a scene showing that the world does in fact recover?
Not the Last Book in a Series?
If this book marks the end of one stage in an epic conflict (as opposed to a stand alone novel), do you still feel there was a clear beginning, significant plot development and that it took you on a journey? Is Act 3 leaving you satisfied with the ground covered in this book?
Are you satisfied with how much characters have grown in this book, or did they feel flat or their growth stagnate at any point?
Does this book’s final state scene show which things pov characters are still grappling with, foreshadowing what their character development may involve in the next book?
Is it clear how, despite this book’s main conflict being resolved, a significant element of conflict is still out there? and are you left with some idea of who it still threatens and how?
Does this suggested continuance of conflict feel like an organic continuance of story, or like its been tacked on? Does it feel like another great instalment in a saga, or a prequel movie designed to make it producers money?