Writing

Crossing the threshold into Act II

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You might remember that a couple months ago–more like a little over a year ago I was writing chapter 10. I was also having a difficult time writing chapter 10 because my inciting incident happened in that chapter. You can check out that post here.

Now, I know it’s a bit much to have inciting incident happen at chapter 10 because it usually appears to happen in other works much earlier at least by two chapters. That was draft one. After going through the whole manuscript, reshaping the outline, I again ended up with lucky chapter 10 as the one to carry in the event. I have a feeling that might change in other drafts and I am prepared, it’s okay for now. So, once again I am trying to shape it so it makes a flow-y transition into ACT II.

Seriously what is it about going over to ACT II that makes us a little anxious? I’ve heard from other writers that going into ACT II can be challenging and often more work is put into the story for the purpose of this part of the story alone. Generally Act II is the bulk of the story, events happen that will test the hero, conflicts occur, etc. I mean it’s a pretty big chunk of stuff that happens in ACT II often called the ‘wonky middle’ during drafting. I’m trying so hard to avoid that ‘wonky middle’ in further drafts so starting strong and staying strong is my goal.

How can we make a smooth transition from ACT I into ACT II?

Here’s what I’ve found that has so far worked for me.

I broke the story apart, beat by beat, scene by scene. Which come to think of it that’s probably why I’m still revising. Anyways, be prepared to spend a good chunk of time doing this. Doing this requires you to look at the structure of what you have AND where it’s placed in the story. It helps spot things like characters doing things that don’t make sense and redundancy. Below is just a bare bones explanation.

ACT I should consist of a few obvious things like:

  • Introducing your main character, as well as other characters
  • Intro to the world and setting
  • A ‘call to adventure’ or a disturbance that interrupts the hero’s world ie. inciting incident
  • Hero ‘crosses the threshold’

Easy peasy right? Ugh.

The so called disturbance refers to where the hero/heroine will stay unless something forces them to change.

ACT II should then contain

  • The journey that results from the hero/heroine’s call to action

And really, that includes all the things: conflict (internal and external), battles, heroic acts, love interests, hero/heroine darkest moments, confrontations, info about what’s to come, consequences–(every action requires consequences).

You can see ACT II is quite where it’s at.

ACT III should contain

  • Final battle is fought
  • Resolution

So what you need to do is have a clear answer to what are the conflicts in the story (internal and external) for at least the main character. Identify the issues that will build up the stakes in the story. That is what helped me get through ACT II. Make sure that you organize how you’re working off from each draft–you don’t want to end up with two of the same chapters each one containing different things. I know, this happened to me and boy I was glad I had notes to go back to and differentiate one from the other.

Breathe. Work chapter by chapter, break it apart until you reach an understanding of your story. Don’t assume, make it clear until you reach the end.

How do you get through into the second act?

-Rosario

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