A well structured story is a good story. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t have good structure, then the project will collapse. No one will read it. They might start it, but they won’t finish it. As authors, our goal is to have readers read our stories to the end.
The basis of the three act structure is beginning, middle and end. The five act structure expands on that. It has exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement. That’s the main difference between the two styles. You an consider the one is just the expansion of the other.
The three act structure starts with introductions. You learn who is who, where the action is taking place and the problem is in the first act. The second escalates the problem. It creates new ones that result from the main character taking action, but choosing the wrong solution to the problem.
The five-act structure starts with the exposition, who is who and all that. The second act is where the main character makes the wrong choice and heads off in the wrong direction as far as solving its problem goes.
The second act of the three-act structure is the climax. Things come to a head and the main character realizes it has made a mistake. It begins to search for the correct solution In the five-act structure, this occurs in the third and fourth acts.
The story comes to an end in the third act of the three-act structure and in the fourth and fifth acts of the five-act structure. Both types of structure use the basic introduction, body and resolution. It’s easier to see that in the three act structure in that, but keep in mind that the five act structure just has a couple more pieces to work with.
As I see it, the five-act story and the three act story structures are quite similar. Act one in the three story act is the same as the first act of the five act. It’s where we find out who is in the story and the story goal. Act two in the three act structure combines acts two, three, and four in the five-act structure. This is the place where the bulk of the story happens. Act three in the three-act structure is the same as the fifth act in the five act structure. This is where you tie up all the loose ends and resolve the story.
Whether you choose to use a three or five act structure is immaterial. Just keep in mind that you need structure of some kind. Maybe you will use the three act structure or perhaps your story wants more acts to play with. Either way, the better your structure, the better your story will be.