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The third quarter drop-dead
Act II:2 is hard on the writer, too!
In the next few weeks we’ll be breaking down the essential components of Act III of your book or script: The Final Battle.
But before we move on, there’s something else I’d like to point out about Act II: Part 2, the third quarter of your story. I find that right about now is very often when writers hit the wall and abandon their books or scripts.
Let's face it; it's easy to write an Act I. It's new, it's fresh, it's exciting—it's like the first flush of being in love. You're so high on endorphins you don't stop to think, and that means you don't get in your own way.
Review Act I.
It can even be not so hard to get through Act II: Part 1 to the Midpoint.
But it's that third quarter, Act II:2, where things get murky. You feel like you're not getting anywhere. In fact, you have no freaking clue where you are, or why in the hell you're wherever the hell you are to begin with, and you just want to give up and sleep for a week, or eat chocolate and watch television for a week, or all of the above. In my own life, I have more than once declared to my significant other that I’m going to have to give back the book advance because I’m just never going to be able to pull the thing off.
I had a friend in movie development who called it "The third-quarter drop dead."
But structurally, this is exactly the point in your story that your hero/ine is feeling those exact same things. In other words, it's the BLACK MOMENT, or ALL IS LOST MOMENT, or the VISIT TO DEATH.
It's as if we as authors have to work ourselves into the exact same hopeless despair as our characters, as if nothing good will ever come out of this situation and we might as well give up right now — in order to convey that emotion on the page and feel that exhilaration when the character solves the problem and gets that final revelation and makes that final plan.
Even after writing dozens of scripts and books (not to mention that I teach this stuff!)—when I’m in the middle of the nightmare of writing Act II:2, I still forget that the whole nature of that part of the story is that it’s maddening and confusing and frustrating. I still forget that there has to be an All is Lost moment that leaves my hero/ine (and me) curled up in a sobbing ball on the floor. Because I have to get there — to get out of it.
So when you find yourself in this situation, remember — it’s just part of the process. You have to feel this despair so you can come up with a brilliant reversal. And you will. We always do… as long as we keep going.
And now on to the FINAL BATTLE and RESOLUTION.
And congratulations to my UK friends who are sending their kids back to school this week! You made it through another summer! HUZZAH!
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From Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, © Alexandra Sokoloff