In Freytag’s Pyramid, the story consists of 5 primary parts:
Exposition: This is the everyday world. The reader learns what she needs to know to understand the story. There is an inciting incident and then …
Rising Action: A series of related incidents; most often the character’s attempts to solve the story problem.
Climax: This is the turning point where the main character’s fate is decided.
Falling Action: This is where the conflict between the antagonist and protagonist plays out.
Denouement: All is resolved.
In the Three Act Structure, Act 1 is the introduction. We meet the characters, get to know the world and then BAM something sets the story in motion.
Act 2 takes up about 1/2 of the story. This is when we watch the character struggle and wonder if he will succeed. Something happens half way through this act that makes us rethink the whole goal. Is it worth it? Will he win?
Act 3 is the remaining 1/4 of the story. It leads us up to the climax and then the falling action and resolution.
Katherine Jacobs of Roaring Brook Press doesn’t believe you should learn to use one, excluding the other. She uses both to edit the books on her list because some books better fit one map, some the other. That said, if you look closely you will see that they seem to overlap. They are simply two different ways of thinking about how the parts of your story function. I don’t tend to think in Acts so Freytag works best for me.
Jacob explained that you don’t want to stretch your denouement out too long or it will drag. This means that you don’t want to wrap up every single loose end in the story. Instead, tie up the main plot and the main subplot. Your reader will assume that the rest works itself out.
Whether you are writing a novel or picture books, plot and pacing are necessary to keep the story moving and your reader engaged. Which model do you prefer?