Plot: Act 4 (part 2)

ACT 4 (part 2):

The last 5 steps of your plot:

  • Self Reflection
  • Race to Climax
  • Showdown
  • Climax
  • New Equilibrium

Self Reflection:

Your main character reflects on his or herself.

Their choices. Their life.

They take a moment to consider everything they’ve been through up until this point. This consideration brings them to some kind of conclusion, or moment of inspiration, and they then get moving again.

Race to Climax:

Your main character races full steam ahead to a climax.

Maybe they’re racing through the city streets in a car, or running as fast as they can to the airport. Whatever their mode of transportation, they’re hauling ass to take one last shot at achieving their goal.

Showdown:

Your main character goes head to head with the source of conflict.

They’ve taken shots at each other during the course of the story, but this is the final battle. They face each other one last time to really have it out.

Climax:

The dramatic crescendo that resolves the dramatic question we raised back in act 1.

Does the main character get what they’ve been after this whole time? Do they succeed? This is the moment when it happens (or not) and the story is just about over.

New Equilibrium:

The wrap up of your story.

You show the audience the aftermath of the events of the story. It could be long and involved ala the end of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King or it could be very short and succinct ala From Dusk Till Dawn.

Let’s take these steps and apply them to our bank robbing example:

ACT 4 (second half):

  • Self Reflection
  • Race to Climax
  • Showdown
  • Climax
  • New Equilibrium

When we last left our story – Recruiter-Guy sacrificed himself to give our main character time enough to get away. He did. He’s fled, successfully, to their planned rendezvous point. He steals a car, packs what’s left of the money from the robbery, and looking to get out of town fast — when the phone rings. It’s the commissioner. He’s sitting outside our main character’s ex-wife’s house. He wants Recruiter-Guy’s cut of the take.

Self Reflection:
Our main character takes a good hard look at himself. He’s got a choice to make.
If he gives the commish half the money to protect his ex-wife, he won’t have enough left over for his surgery. He’ll die. Another option, is to keep the money and let his ex-wife die. But then the commissioner is still out there, still hunting him. A third option – he could face and kill the commissioner. It’s dangerous. But the only person dying in this scenario is the kidnapping, corrupt, commissioner.

He decides on option three. He’s going to kill the commissioner.

This takes our main character to the end of his character arc. He’s gone from peaceful pacifist — to criminal killer. Ya know, if that’s the arc you designed for him.

Race to Climax:
Our main character races to confront the commissioner with a shotgun, locked and loaded.

Showdown:
Our main character steps into a warehouse. His ex-wife is tied up, he squares off with the commissioner.

Climax:
They fight, and our main character kills the commissioner. He saves his ex-wife and sets out to leave town with his money.

OR, if ya wanna go a different way…

Our main character kills the commissioner, frees his ex-wife, steps out of the warehouse and is gunned down by the police who’ve finally tracked him down. He’s dead.

New Equilibrium:
In choice A — the commissioner is dead, his ex-wife is free, and he has all the money he needs for his surgery. He gets out of town, gets the medical help he needed, and he’s recovering on a beach somewhere. Peaceful.

In choice B — our main character’s body lies bleeding out on the concrete. It’s quickly zipped up in a bag and taken to the morgue. He’s dead. He lost.

That’s a bit more depressing, but like all the steps in your plot, it depends on what kind of story you’re going for.

That’s it Animals! That’s your plot, in 25 steps.



Plot: Act 4 (part 1)

ACT 4 (part 1):

Act 4 has twice as many steps as acts 1, 2, and 3.

It has ten steps:

Let’s start by discussing…

The first 5 steps:

  • B Plot Resolution
  • Final Plan
  • Gate
  • Gauntlet
  • Darkest Hour

B Plot Resolution:

You resolve the B plot.

Give it some closure. Again, like the other B plot steps, this one is movable. You might want to aim for the beginning of act 4, but you could resolve the B plot at any point during the act.

Final Plan:

Coming off of the success or failure of act 3’s plan

Your main character needs one more plan to finally achieve their goal.

Gate:

This refers to the threshold your main character has to cross as they enact their final plan.

This is a big moment in your story. You give some attention to the fact that a threshold is being crossed. It could be metaphorical or literal. Your main character could throw down their police badge as they drive off to help the outlaws. Or your main character could literally open the gates of Hell itself and step through to the other side. Once the gate is passed, they have to deal with the…

Gauntlet:

This is the string of obstacles standing in your main character’s way.

Between them and their goal. A punishing sequence of challenges which lead to the…

Darkest Hour:

This is when all hope is truly lost.

We’ll take a look at the last 5 steps of act 4 in the next post.

Let’s apply what we’ve covered to our bank robbery example:

ACT 4 (first half):

  • B Plot Resolution
  • Final Plan
  • Gate
  • Gauntlet
  • Darkest Hour

B Plot Resolution:
The commissioner approaches the getaway car, revealing himself as the leader of the kidnappers. Our main character pulls some moves and takes him hostage. He has the commissioner call his goons to release Recruiter-Guy’s daughter. The Recruiter-Guy B plot, has now been resolved.

Final Plan:
We establish that our main character’s final plan is to take the commissioner hostage, and use him to get away.

Gate:
Our main character has to pass through the impossible barricade of cops. He hits the gas and smashes through it…

Gauntlet:
Resulting in a perilous high speed chase as he tries to evade the police.

Darkest Hour:
The police are slow to keep up, it seems like our characters will get away. But then a tire gets blown out – the car flips over, crashing across traffic. They’re cooked.

Oooh noooooo!

Some Details:

What if we hadn’t resolved the B plot so early in act 4? What if we moved it to the middle? What would that look like?

Well, let’s say we resolve it right now, near the Darkest Hour.

In the wreck that used to be the getaway car, Recruiter-Guy makes a deal. He’ll let the police commissioner go, in exchange for setting his daughter free. The commissioner agrees. Makes the call. And they let the commish go.

The police are now closing in. Recruiter-Guy is too injured to run. He sacrifices himself to give our main character time enough to get away. Recruiter-Guy goes down in a storm of police bullets. A very different end to the B plot, and maybe, a better one.