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!



Character Part 4: Character Web

Character Web

You want the story you’re telling to feel connected. You want it to feel organic and whole. One way to do this, is through the “character web.”

By designing a character web, you create cohesion among your various characters. They all feel like an organic part of your story. All of them connected to one another somehow.

How do you do this?

You pick one trait that all the characters can share.

This could be one of the character traits we’ve already covered:

For instance, all of your characters could be connected by the same flaw.

Perhaps they all have intimacy issues.

Then throughout the story, you have each character demonstrate a unique version or expression of this same general flaw.

  • Unwilliness to commit.
  • Fear of loss, which causes constant anxiety, which causes problems for the relationship.
  • Needy behavior.
  • Too caught up in an idealized version their partner to see the real state of their connection.

These are all expressions of the same core flaw: intimacy issues.

Each character would have distinct and specific challenges in the story, but the baseline similarity gives the whole cast of characters a sense of belonging to the same idea, the same theme, the same story.

Or maybe you have all of your characters follow the same character arc:

It’s a coming of age story.

And through the course of the story, each character matures in their own way. This maturation will be caused by different experiences, different moments, but they’ll all come out more “grown up” in the end. This gives the characters a shared element that connects them all in a web.

Or maybe give all of your characters the same ghost:

Then you can go ahead and play out the different perspectives or opinions they all have about this shared event in their past.

Say a group of soldiers all survived the same battle. And now some guy they thought was dead, has come back for revenge.

Any character trait can be used to create a web.

It just depends on what works best for your story, what trait your really want to focus on, and which one can best be integrated into all of your characters.

But once you create that web, you’ve now given your story a powerful sense of cohesion and wholeness. A sense that everything here is a natural part of the overall story.