The Plotting Workshop: Scenes for Act II

scenes-for-act-iiHopefully the left-hand wing of your plot board is nice and full of sticky notes now. You should have what happens in Act I all down.
Can you see how valuable it is to be able to see your story all at a glance? And the sticky notes are so impermanent. That means you can rip one off and replace it, or move it somewhere else, with zero problem. For me, that’s super important. I need my plot board to be flexible, because a novel is a long piece of work and things change when you’re actually writing it.
The point of all of this work isn’t to chisel your story into stone before you even start to write it. It’s to build it up and give your brain a chance to see the full potential of it now, which will make writing it so much easier.
Trust me, anything that makes writing a first draft even a little easier is worthwhile.
Today we’re moving on to the scenes for Act II. Remember, Act II is considerably longer than Act I or Act III. In fact, it’s about half of your story–or about 30 to 40 scenes.
Ready for this?
Act II encompasses four sequences: three, four, five, and six. That means you have four climactic scenes. The two biggies are the mid-point climax at the end of sequence four and the main climax at the end of sequence six. Go ahead and start with those.
Now, look back over your notes at Tests, Allies, and Enemies, Approach to the Inmost Cave, The Ordeal, and The Reward.
You’re going to need two more climactic scenes, one for the end of sequence three and one for the end of sequence five. Keep that in mind as you look at your story.
Leading up to the mid-point climax you’re going to have scenes where your hero meets other people who are important to the story. You’ll probably have a first run-in with the villain, a few tests of
your main character’s resolve, maybe a love scene.
Your MC is going to make their way closer and closer to the place where the mid-point climax will take place, and bad things will happen to them along the way. Each of those things is a scene.
Think of the scenes in Act II, part one, as the rocks you’re throwing at your hero once you’ve finally coaxed them up the tree.
After the mid-point climax, you’ll have scenes where your hero reacts to the Ordeal. Probably another love scene if there’s any romance at all in your book. The rocks will pick up again and things have to get bad enough to reach Dark Night of the Soul territory by the end of Act II, part two.
Just like with Act I, if you find yourself with a build up of scenes in any one sequence, then you need to think about the pacing of your story so that you can get to the climactic scene that leads into the next sequence.

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