Essential Elements of ACT II: PART I
Even though we call it the Three-Act Structure, I always teach it as four acts.
It’s much more useful to think of that long Act II as two separate Acts—we’ll call them Act II: 1 and Act II:2, that have their own very specific story elements, and that 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 — the Midpoint.
So we’re talking about the second quarter of your book or script.
First, here’s an overview:
Act II: Part 1 is the most variable of the four Acts of a story. It also tends to be the most genre-specific!
IF THE FILM IS A MYSTERY, this section will almost always have these elements:
-LINING UP AND ELIMINATING SUSPECTS
-RED HERRINGS AND FALSE TRAILS
-THE DETECTIVE VOICING THEIR THEORY
IF THE BOOK OR FILM IS A TEAM ACTION STORY, A WAR STORY, A HEIST OR CAPER story (like OCEAN’S 11 and all the other Oceans, THE INSIDE JOB, MAID OF HONOR, THE SEVEN SAMURAI, THE DIRTY DOZEN, ARMAGEDDON, INCEPTION), then this section will usually have these elements:
- GATHERING THE TEAM
- TRAINING SEQUENCE
- GATHERING THE TOOLS
- BONDING BETWEEN TEAM MEMBERS
- SETTING UP TEAM MEMBERS’ STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES that will be tested in battle later.