As a writer you have to know when Act Two is about to be begin. It’s the kind of thing that you as the writer need in place, even if it sneaks up on your reader. ACT ONE provides the set up on the way to that big Plot Point One when EVERYTHING CHANGES for the main character. Here are some telltale signs your main character has left the first act:
1. There’s no turning back after stepping into ACT TWO.
The main character woke up in Act One, got that proverbial kick in the pants, had time to back off, get advice, come around, and go through all the machinations necessary to face the daunting dilemma: Things will never be the same if I leave. This fact does not go unnoticed.
2. Others feel the shift into ACT TWO.
It is an act that can’t be UNDONE so in its aftermath a close friend, lover, or relative will feel the repercussions. A mother watches her child ship out to war, families watching sailors disappear on the horizon in dangerous weather, a girlfriend awaits the outcome of her boyfriend after a jewel heist. Everyone is imagining what it must be like – over there.
3. ACT TWO is different: really, really different.
The first half of ACT TWO has to be new territory, a testing ground to reveal the main character’s weaknesses and hidden skills. Old friends and new friends may accompany the main character but without betrayals and challenges the story will be over before the main character figures out why it was a good idea to leave home in the first place! Main characters are supposed to be confused in the beginning.
4. ACT TWO starts out cloudy with signs of lightning and thunderstorms
There’s a saying about storytelling, “If the story is going great it’s going nowhere.” The first half of ACT TWO has a main character searching for answers. Lots of writers have a hard time stretching out the plot over ACT TWO because of the curse of knowledge. The main character already knows too much too early. Bread crumbs, bread crumbs. The main character has to come to the truth slowly without it being obvious. Give the main character a healthy wall of FOG in ACT TWO no matter how gung ho the quest started. As a matter of fact that wall might knock the main character into some deep reflection.
5. ACT TWO smacks the main character into reality
In the Hero’s Journey right after the First Threshold is passed, the Hero lands in the Belly of the Whale:
“The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown,
[where he] goes inward to be born again… It is a nightmarish sentiment with ancient resonance; it is the
last moment of decision-making before the hero has to take action.”
You know you are in ACT TWO because your main character has to take stock of the moment in all its glory. In other words, what do I do now?
Each of these five moments is an opportunity to add conflict, revelation, depth and direction to a plot and make sure that at the juncture between ACT ONE and ACT TWO EVERYTHING CHANGES.
When did you know your main character was leaving ACT ONE?
Good luck with every act. Keep writing,
The 60 Scenes Writing Method
“If you can write 60 scenes you can write a novel.”