I am currently listening and reading various sources on how to write and came across an interesting concept.
The idea refers to books and stories having three acts. The beginning where their normal life is interrupted, the middle in which they strive and push through the mud, and the final which is the “knockout” where they win.
There is a gateway between acts, each of no return. That means that once the character walks through this door, they can no longer go back. They commit to a course of action when they walk through this door. I find that interesting that committing your characters to action is an interesting way to write. I think it is part of what makes a character a bit more of a bad ass. They push towards a goal, not because it is a continuous choice, but because the way back is blocked. If they can go back to the way it was before the act, the acts do not have the proper separation. This means that as you build tension, you add to it through the characters lack of options. A hero is not a hero because of constant temptation, but because he HAS to follow his code of morals.
For example, in the movie Shawshank Redepemtion, the accountant has a choice to do the warden’s books. He wavers on this until he’s put in solitary confinement. He then comes back and appears to have made the choice to help the antagonist. However, he “walked” through a different gateway – which is what makes this a fantastic story. He can’t go back and forth between doing and not doing the books. Once he has committed to the action – he has to follow through it. This leads to the big “knockout” where the accountant gets the better of the warden in every way.