Monday, May 31, 2010

Act TWO

You got your reader hooked. We care about your characters, submitted to your world, and believe the impossible circumstances that have led your character here--your second major turning point.


In the second arc you give your MC a bit of a reprieve, a small victory, a battle won before the war. Middles are hard only because we get lazy. Yes, I will leave it at “we”. Our beginnings start strong, we have all this energy, but then the middles tend to lag a bit. While writing my middles, I keep in mind the quote from Alfred Hitchcock who said that books are about life with the boring parts taken out.

Remember that. Write by it.

Readers don’t want to experience the mundane. We live it. I mean I live it. We want to experience places we’ve never seen before, be in the thicket of things while in a safe place. We want to be lost. And so we, as writers, need to make sure that the mundane has no place in our writing. Now, this doesn’t only pertain to physical action. Mental and emotional action intrigues as well. We can become lost in a persons psyche just as in a physical world.

An example from my manuscript:

Act I—War breaks out. Battles lost and won. We are introduced to our characters. I've set the tone, pace, genre, conflict, hook, incident—not too much to ask for, right?

Act II—Anne, the MC, is taken into hiding because she’s as bull-headed as she is tempered. She doesn’t believe she can change anything in the war. She fights everyone and begins spiraling into despair until a trigger brings her back to reality and she begins to accept and train he skills. Here we have the character arc= “She believes” and the plot “she trains”. They should go hand in hand. So we have the temporary triumph. Then comes the “but…” that leads to the third arc.

Always let the reader know the consequences. If Anne doesn’t come to her senses, believes, and trains, the allies will lose the war and probably kill her since she’s no use to them. So the consequences are not only general “losing the war” but to her as well “kill her.”

One thing I want you to note- that I did with a resounded, heavy sigh- is that this plot can be any other plot I’ve read. It’s the plight of “the one”. From Harry Potter to Star Wars, this plot has been recycled who knows how many times and how many times more. It’s a good one. Where does the originality fall to play? In you.

Remember your voice, and the triggers you give your characters, the world you build, the relationships torn and made in your story are all yours alone. It’s why I think it’s important to write down an outline. A few sentences per chapter ideally leaving your character's attitude in there. Because when it comes back to writing that query, you can’t generalize it to this plot. You have to make it your own and that outline may save you.

What do you think?  How do you keep your energy for Act II?

6 comments:

  1. I try to treat every scene as if it were the most important part of the book. If it's *not* that important, it probably needs to go into the recycle folder. :-)

    Great post! I'm linking back to you.

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  2. Thanks Deb, I like the idea of having a recycle folder.

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  3. Great post. I struggle with Act II often. It sags and seems the most rewrite. You are right. You do have to put a unique spin on your story because they've all been written before.

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  4. I love the three act structure. I think I'm going to use it more in my next WIP.
    For my Act III, the stakes are going to be higher. My MC will be a fugitive and her life as well as her family's will be on the line now.

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  5. Thanks for your comment Natalie. Middles do tend to sag but we need to keep raising that bar! Hi Lydia, love your blog. It's busy over there!! Always a good thing. Your WIP sounds like it will engage the reader. Thanks for stopping by. Hey Nishant, thanks. Glad I can help.

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