Planning Act Two

It occurs to me this series also includes some data about story structure. There are many structures you can use, but I prefer three act structure. In fact, it’s actually a four act structure as we’ll see today. Act Two comes in two parts. Feel free to use any structure you like.

Many of the comments from the last post were about the technology. I use my iPad for everything, and am comfortable with a corkboard app. Use whatever you like, including a physical corkboard, or a storyboard.

At the end of the first act, we reminded ourselves to make sure all the settings, players, and stakes are in place. The main character has made a choice from which there is no return.  Act Two is the place to do something about the problem. The beginning of Act Two looks like this:


At this point your characters are taking steps to solve the problem. The first action is usually to power up. Maybe they need training, or weapons. Maybe it’s a makeover and new clothes in your sweet romance.

Like I mentioned, the cards are just reminders and help to spread out the big things that must happen. I write over the basic card for my individual tales.

Here’s what my beginning of Act Two looked like in The Cock of the South:


A mixed group of races left their home at the end of Act One. They had a plan, but that scene was all about looking back. Act Two begins with them crossing into a new part of the world to execute the plan. They are looking forward at this point. They are going to learn new skills from each other in order to survive. (A form of mentoring, and making allies.)

Obviously, things aren’t going to go according to plan, and there should be some failures to go along with the successes. The characters learn as much from failure as from success.

imageThis card isn’t strictly necessary, but since this is a post about my corkboard process, I threw one in. It’s basically a reminder that I need to have specific things in place for the next card which is of major importance.


This is almost as important as the premise. This is where it all hits the fan. It is the beginning of Act Two, Part Two. In case you can’t read it, it says: Completely changes the game, even the plan. A setback, loss, death, love interest, huge revelation, huge personal loss. Use re-calibrating, desperate acts, unethical behavior, to get to the end of this act. Great place for a ticking clock and dark night of the soul.

The game changes completely at this point. Think of it like Freddy’s plan failing, then Scooby & Shaggy take some desperate act to make up the difference. I spend quite a bit of time coming up with my midpoint these days.

Here’s an example of my midpoint card from Arson:


In this particular story, a freaky mentor/instructor actually becomes a love interest. This changes the dynamic and requires new thinking for my main character from this point on. It also introduced some cool extra stresses and distractions.

Filling in the cards between the Midpoint and the end of Act Two can be one of the most fun parts of the process. Let’s look at the end of Act Two.


This is the point of total revelation for your character(s). They know everything they need to know, but that doesn’t mean the villain can’t still have a surprise. There may be a plan formed, or there may be an act of desperation. This probably depends on your character more than anything.

Here’s my notecard for the end of Act Two in The Cock of the South:


The loose band of peoples are bickering. They’ve accomplished much, but aren’t acting together. Will they scatter to the four winds and eventual extinction, or come together to make a stand? Cobby takes a desperate act to try bringing them all together. They have complete knowledge of what they are facing, and failure to work together is fatal.

That’s Act Two in a big nutshell. As far as the remaining cards go, you have the important foundations to build up your outline. Add in cards to take the story from point to point. I frequently have cards to discard completely (usually research), and even move some around from act to act. This is also the largest act, and can make up half of your story. It isn’t unusual to move the cards around for quite some time to get them just right.

Part one is here. Part three is here.


Filed under Writing

19 responses to “Planning Act Two

  1. Pingback: Planning your novel | Entertaining Stories

  2. Ali Isaac

    Really enjoying this insight into your writer’s brain…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. No crickets. That’s wheels turning that you hear. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll finish the series, but may have learned something about blogging. Glad you’re enjoying it though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe it’s your audience. No offense of course. But people visits blogs for all sorts of reasons, as you know. When I post about structure they are always my most popular. Funny how varied it can be, blog to blog. Guess you never know till you try.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure I’ll be onto some other subject after this sequence finishes. It was a surprise, but not really a big deal. Part of the problem is outlining and structure are different things. I kind of have to address both to explain myself.

        Liked by 1 person

      • And there are many who are closed off to the idea of structure. Some feel it stifles creativity. When in fact it enhances it, IMO. Perhaps you mostly have die-hard pantsers as readers. Maybe if you drill home the idea that pantser or planner, this technique works. I only say this because I’ve heard others (not concerning your series) that rage against structure of any kind. Until, they realize structure is there to help not hinder. Just a thought.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That debate will never end. I feel like I use a happy medium, but others see me as an uber organized planner. I’m sharing my method, and it won’t work for some people. They may be able to steal a small piece and make use of it. I got the ideas from somewhere (once upon a time) myself.

        Liked by 2 people

      • You’re right. The debate is endless. I will say, if you weren’t a planner I’d be less apt to want to read your books. Another bold statement, I know. Your readers probably hate me now. But I mean it as a compliment. Because you do plan I know your story will start with a bang, won’t have a saggy middle, the plot threads will tie up nicely, and you’ve created a satisfying ending. I can’t tell you how many book I’ve written that didn’t gel because I wrote them from the seat of my pants. Endless rewrites before they finally came together. Point is, by knowing you plan, IMO, makes me confident in your abilities as a storyteller. Just sayin’.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Um, don’t be so sure. I always struggle with middles. I also have a saggy middle physically. You’d probably like Wisp, it seems to fit your criteria.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. You really put a lot of thought into planning when you’re crafting a novel. My late critique partner of twelve years was a master outliner and planner. I’m still trying to discover the knack. I love to be organized, but somehow the itch to start writing always prods me forward before the structure of the novel is built. Hmm.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: Planning Act Three | Entertaining Stories

  6. This offers some awesome insight and valuable tips! Thanks for sharing! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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