Week 2, Act 2

song indigo fireLast week, I began a three-week series on the three act structure. Most commonly used for screenplays, novelists have long borrowed the basic structure to help outline novels. Bottom line, the three-act structure is a proven story-telling technique.

This week, we’ll look at Act II.

Act II is most commonly referred to as the rising action. It’s marked by several things, but the two most important aspects are the escalation of tension and the further development of the character.

Act II shows us how big the problem can be, and it’s always bigger than originally thought. Things keep getting worse. The characters try to defeat the antagonist, try to resolve the conflict, but fail. It’s a process of learning what must be done to overcome. Or, if the characters already know, Act II is the quest to achieve whatever feat must be done to eventually emerge victorious.

The real reason for the escalation of conflict and tension is the failure of the characters. Our protagonists come to find out they don’t have the required skill set, or strength, or determination, or resolve (etc.) to overcome the antagonist. Thus, they must progress and grow—a process that is often aided by other characters close to our protagonists. If we think of The Empire Strikes Back, we see Luke undertaking a quest to become a Jedi. But even Yoda can’t prepare him for the challenge of Darth Vader. Ultimately, when Luke shows down with the evil Sith, Vader is the one who emerges victoriously. Defeated, but not dead, Luke must again train and prepare to fight an evil he thought he was ready for.

This act is process. It’s trial-and-error. It’s learning and development of characters. The intensifying adversity sharpens our characters’ resolve and determination. Our characters gather the strength they need to overcome whatever trial they will face at the end.

Last week, I used my YA Fantasy novel, The Hand of Adonai and the Book of Things to Come, to illustrate the action of Act I. If I continue that analysis, we see that Act II of HOA and the BOTTC forces our characters to realize the only way they’ll find their way home is with the knowledge contained with in the Book of Things to Come. They also must learn to work together and deal with their personal short-comings and work as a team to overcome the obstacles they face (in this case, scary monsters…lots of scary monsters). They also discover that the threat they face is larger than they anticipated. Getting home might cost them their lives.

9 Comments on Week 2, Act 2

  1. dina rodriguez | April 15, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Reply

    My favorite part of any story is “act2” its fun to wright about the action. It realy is important to have tiral and error in a story because your character isnt perfect. If he was the story would be realy boring. But if the character messes up to much it could mess up the whole story.

  2. janet anderson | April 17, 2013 at 10:36 am | Reply

    I like act 2 because its the climax of the story were everything goes off the deep end and there is more action than act 1 and you can get into the the book more.

  3. Summer Connell | April 18, 2013 at 10:32 am | Reply

    Act II is probably more exciting than the beginning. Although the beginning tells you the setting and gives you some clues about what will go on in the story later on, Act II- (Rising Action) gets you more interested in the story. I prefer the middle which would be the rising action or the climax.

  4. Act 2 is alot better than Act 1 because it talks about main characters more. Its also intoduces other characters that play a role in the story. It also consists of some rising action and gives an idea of what the story is going to be about.

  5. Act II is just as important as Act I. Now that the central conflict has been established by the first act, it’s time to go deeper. And often enough, Act II is when things get darker.
    For example, let’s say your protagonist is lost and trying to get home. Act I consisted of the introduction to his world, an understanding of who this guy is, and how he got lost. Awesome. But, when he’s out in the woods and in search of help, what if he sees or hears something that was supposed to remain secret? Is there hidden treasure in the woods? A body? Something even more shocking?
    Good post. Write well, write often.

  6. Act 2 is always the most exciting for the readers to read, because all of the problems and action is organized, and usually easy for the readers to comprehend. Act 2 can also change the readers opinions on some characters that earlier were either extremely appealing or the complete opposite.

  7. JessicaRae Padilla | April 26, 2013 at 7:40 am | Reply

    This is very interesting because it involves main characters. It also introduces conflicts and struggles that the characters have to overcome. It also builds up conflicts to come to a climax and eventually an end of the story. Without the rising actions, conflicts, and climax, the conclusion of a story wouldn’t make sense.

  8. DeZerae Fraijo | May 14, 2013 at 9:39 am | Reply

    This act is equally as important as the first. Hey have to work hand-in-hand.
    The beginning starts the book, the next sets up the conflicts to come.
    In my current novel, I’ve been looking into the future so-to-say.
    I’ve been focussing on the conflict and the subconflicts–I really don’t have a beginning as of right now.
    I do know that I need a strong beginning to get my future readers hooked, and see how successful I will be able to become! 🙂

  9. Drew Williams | May 17, 2013 at 7:38 am | Reply

    The longest part of story is the middle, the second act. The first and second acts have to collaborate to put the characters introduced into and exciting situation.

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