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.



Plot: Act 3

ACT 3:

Like the two before it, act 3 has five steps:

  • B Plot Convergence
  • New Plan
  • Destruction
  • Point of Desperation
  • Turning Point 3

B Plot Convergence:

The B plot converges with the main plot.

They twist, intersect, and crossover with one another. Like the B plot introduction in act 2, this step is movable. So you don’t have to have it occur here at the beginning of act 3. You could push it to the middle, or even to the end of act 3.

Why are we having the B plot converge with the main plot? Because as we approach the middle of the story, we need these two threads to come together into an integrated whole. That way the ending will satisfy both stories at once.

New Plan:

By this point, the original plan from act 2 has either failed, or succeeded. Either way…

We need a new plan in order to move forward and achieve our goal.

Destruction:

Like the “shenanigans” of act 2, this step will make up the majority of act 3.
Act 3 is all about the negative expression of the story’s seed.

Everything starts to go badly.

Everything is torn down. Destroy it all. This destruction culminates in a…

Point of Desperation:

Your character is at their darkest.

Their most vulnerable. They’re on the ropes, and they don’t think they’re gonna make it. Until…

Turning Point 3:

Something big happens. The story shifts in a new direction.

Just like turning points 1 and 2. This shift could be your main character reaching a new low, or it could be that an opportunity arises that they seize onto like a life raft. Either way, something big happens that closes out act 3, and pushes the story fully into act 4.

Let’s apply all of this to our bank robbery example:

ACT 3:

  • B Plot Convergence
  • New Plan
  • Destruction
  • Point of Desperation
  • Turning Point 3

B Plot Convergence:
We know that at the top of the story, Recruiter-Guy’s daughter was kidnapped. But now, the kidnappers are targeting our main character’s family as well. Wah-oh!

New Plan:
After the bank robbery got messy, our main character got away. His buddy wasn’t so lucky. Our main character devises a plan to break him out of police custody.

Destruction:
But this new plan brings nothing but further destruction.
While executing the new plan to break Recruiter-Guy out, our main character kills more cops, the getaway car is destroyed, he loses half of their stolen money, and to top it all off — he’s been shot in the shoulder. Our main character is seriously scrambling.
All of this destruction culminates in our main character reaching a…

Point of Desperation:
Our characters are speeding away in a getaway car. If they reach the highway they can get to a plane, and get out of the country. But then they see it — a police blockade. A multitude of officers, concrete barriers, cars, they’ve even got a helicopter circling above.

Turning Point 3:
Our characters stop. There’s nowhere to run. The police commissioner himself approaches the car. He reveals that he’s not only the police commissioner. He’s also – the leader of the kidnappers!

Dun dun dunnnnnn!



Plot: Act 2

ACT 2!

Just like act 1, it has 5 steps:

  • B Plot Introduction
  • Plan
  • Shenanigans
  • Commitment Confirmed
  • Turning Point 2

B Plot Introduction:

You start the smaller plot that will run concurrent to the main plot.

One unique aspect of the B plot, is that it’s movable. You could introduce the B plot here in the beginning of act 2, or really any time earlier in act 1. But generally speaking, the beginning of act 2 is a good place for it.

Plan:

Your main character formulates a plan of action.

They already have a goal, a desire that they want or need to pursue. How are they going to achieve that goal? They need a plan. This is the time for them to come up with one.

Shenanigans:

A broad term for what occurs during the bulk of act 2.

You main character puts their plan into action, and… what happens? What kind of hijinks ensue? This is where you get to relish in the seed you’ve set up. What was your seed?

  • Was it: “What if dinosaurs were resurrected?”

Then your shenanigans would be walking among these majestic giants, marveling at their grace and beauty. Having your paleontologist characters witness live behaviors they could only guess at back when they were looking at fossilized bones.

  • Was it: “What if you could come back from the dead for revenge?”

Then your main character spends this “shenanigans” time back from the dead, killing those who did him wrong.

This is the time to enjoy the “positive” aspects of the seed you’ve set up.

Commitment Confirmed:

The character fully commits to the journey ahead.

The road they’re moving down. The shenanigans have opened up your main character’s world, but there’s still the possibility of going back to how things used to be. It’s still possible to step back into their smaller, safer world from before the story began. Here in this step, you take that possibility away. They commit fully to the path. They cross that bridge and it crumbles behind them. They might get killed saving their friend, but they get in the car anyway.

You want to craft a situation where there’s no going back. Your main character’s commitment to the road ahead, is confirmed.

Turning Point 2:

This is the end of act 2. You want to end it with a bang.

Some kind of major accomplishment. Or, alternatively, some kind of major set back.

This major turn in the story should push things forward. In the same way turning point 1 did. We want to move the story along, in a big shift, into act 3.

Let’s put this all together and take a look at our bank robbing example from act 1:

ACT 2:

  • B Plot Introduction
  • Plan
  • Shenanigans
  • Commitment Confirmed
  • Turning Point 2

First, let’s introduce our B plot.
Our main character’s buddy, the guy who recruited him into this whole bank robbing idea, will be the main character for the B plot. Turns out his daughter has been kidnapped and in order to get her back, he has to rob this bank.

The main character and his recruiter buddy hatch their plan, when they sit down and prepare exactly how they’re going to rob this bank.

We get into our shenanigans when our characters actually rob the bank. This whole section is what the story is primarily about, plot-wise.

Their commitment is confirmed when our main characters kill a cop on the way out of the bank. There’s no going back now. They’re in it for keeps.

And we truly hit turning point 2, when Recruiter-Guy is caught by the police and our main character leaves him behind.

That’s a real solid act 2. Movin’ on to act 3!