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.
This 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.