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Alternative Scriptwriting, 4th Edition by Jeff Rush, Ken Dancyger

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Critique of Restorative Three-Act Form

In restorative three-act stories, there is an implied contract between the viewer and the filmmaker, a tacit agreement that, although the characters will err, we are never to lose sight of the costs. Although part of us may wish that the heroine gets away with something, we need the satisfaction of payback to fulfill our sense of dramatic completion.

But this need for payback is not inevitable; there are many stories that satisfy us precisely because the character is not governed by such a fixed moral system and its consequent need for retribution. Rather, we seek payback in most mainstream films because ...

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