Dear Dr. Boli: My creative-writing teacher says all fiction has a three-act structure, and she says she wants to see that three-act structure in the short story that’s due next Tuesday. She tried to explain what she meant, but she used a lot of technical terms like “exposition” and “catalyst” and “fiction,” and I was having trouble following her. I was wondering if you could explain this three-act thing in simple, everyday language. —Sincerely, Billy (last name withheld), Miss Pinprick’s Fourth-Period Creative-Writing Class.

Dear Sir: In order to make the notion of the three-act structure in fiction clearer, Dr. Boli has prepared this handy chart.

Chart of the three-act structure in fiction

Let your short story follow this formula, and your creative-writing teacher is bound to give you an A.