Continuing our discussion on the elements you tend to find in the second quarter of a book or script— no matter what genre you’re writing in!
Even though we talk about the Three-Act Structure, I always look at it and teach it as four acts.
Whether you’re writing a book or a script, it’s incredibly useful to think of Act II as two separate Acts, which we’ll call Act II: 1 and Act II: 2, which have their own very specific story elements, and which are very different in feeling and tone from each other.
In a 2-hour movie, Act II: Part 1 starts at about 30 minutes and ends at about 60 minutes. In a 400-page book, Act II: Part 1 starts at about page 100 and climaxes at about page 200.
So we’re looking at the second quarter of your story, leading up to the Midpoint:
You may also have heard discussion of a Five-Act Structure.
That’s a product of television, which follows the above four act format that we still call the Three-Act structure, but will often add a Teaser scene or Prologue, and call it Act I of 5 — though that Teaser or Prologue is usually quite a bit shorter than a true Act. Streaming shows, with much more time flexibility than network television, will sometimes extend that Teaser into a full Act (You’ll especially see this on premium channels like HBO, Showtime, Hulu), resulting in a more Shakespearean five acts (which is still the classic Three Act structure, but with Act I and Act II making up the first Act; Act III and IV making up the second act, and Act V making up the third act).
When you’re writing a book, obviously, you can use any of this that’s useful to you!
But no matter what you call the structure overall, once you move into Act II these are the elements you tend to see in that second quarter:
More posts on Act II: Part 1:
—Elements of Act II
—Act II: Part 1 - What’s the EXPERIENCE of Your Book?
—The Hunger Games story breakdown, Act II:1
—Silence of the Lambs story breakdown, Act II:1
And to review, here’s a video on the most essential elements of Act I, moving into the essential elements of Act II:1 - as a narrative!
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All material from Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, © Alexandra Sokoloff
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