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.



Revelation: The Intrigue of Your Story

The intrigue of your story.

It’s what keeps your audience interested and keeps them guessing. It’s that progressive mystery. That rolling out of information that hooks ’em and simultaneously keeps ’em curious.

“Revelation” is all about surprising your audience, while moving the story forward.

There are three main methods for executing revelations in your story:

  • The Question and Answer Method
  • The Mystery and Reveal Method
  • The Unknown Surprise Method

Question and Answer Method

What’s that look like?

You raise a question, then you answer it.

The level of suspense is determined by how much ambiguity and time you put between the initial raising of the question, and the eventual answer.

Example: Will he take the job offer?

The question raised, is obvious. There’s a job on the table – will he take it or not? That’s the mystery. When he makes that decision, that’s when we have our answer.

Question. Answer.

But the general level of mystery here is limited. He’ll either accept the job offer or not. We know that much. There are really only two choices.

Sure, there’s maybe a convoluted third choice – where he bargains for a different job at the same company, etc. But by and large the question raised is clear, and the answer can really only be one of two choices. Because of that, the audience already has a 50/50 shot of guessing correctly what the answer is going to be. This makes the method simple, but still very useful.

Mystery and Reveal Method

What’s that look like?

Here you establish a mystery, then reveal the answer.

Example: Who is the killer?

Now this mystery is established here in the form of a question – just like the question and answer method, but notice the answer is not a simple binary choice.

“Who is the killer?” actually has a near-unlimited number of possible answers. The killer could be anyone. This is what causes the mystery reveal method to feel more complex than the question and answer method.

You establish a mystery with an abundance of possible answers. The audience is left guessing as to who in the world the killer could be. They sit in that uncertainty looking for clues. Primed and ready to accept red herrings along the way. Then, when you’re ready, you reveal the true answer.

Establish a mystery, and eventually reveal the answer.

Unknown Surprise Method

Revealing the answer to a question that was never actually asked.

Example: A character busting into a room and announcing:

“I’m Moving to France!”

Boom. It’s like a slap in the face. It comes out of nowhere. It’s a complete surprise, but a revelation none the less.

This is the simplest form of a revelation because you weren’t building toward it in any obvious way. You just revealed information, with no set-up. And because there was no set up, the unknown surprise method tends to feel a bit false unless done just right. Be careful.

Each method can be used to different effect, go ahead and utilize what’s best for your story.

The different types of revelations:

Character Revelation

This is the most common type of revelation. This is when the revelation is specifically experienced from a character’s perspective. The character learns something new and so does the audience, at the same time.

Examples!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Harry is told by Hagrid that he is a wizard.
Batman Begins – Bruce Wayne learns the true identity of Henri Ducard.

Audience Revelation

The audience learns something that a character does not.

Examples!

The Lion King – the audience sees Scar intentionally kill Mufasa while young Simba is oblivious to this fact.
Iron Man – the audience learns that Tony’s friend Obadiah Stane is betraying him long before he does.

Character’s Self Revelation

Which, as we’ve seen with the character cubby, is an intimate part of a character’s arc. The character learns something about themselves and grows.

This type of revelation is more of a concern for your character cubby and plot cubby. But it’s still a revelation, so we’re bringing it up now.

Example!

The Matrix – Neo has the self-revelation that he is in fact “The One.” He never believed it before and the audience was kept in a limbo state of uncertainty, but now, as he rises from the dead, both he and the audience learn the truth.

Story Twist Revelation

This is where the revelation is so massive that it changes your entire perception of the story up until this point.

In fact this type of revelation is so massive and story-altering that we could just say the story’s title and you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about:

Fight Club or The Sixth Sense.

Audiences love a good mystery, it gets their mind racing, trying to solve the riddle that’s been laid out before them. It’s fun and mentally stimulating.

The interesting thing about a revelation line is that it can only truly be experienced the first time. Once you know the answer, the riddle is never the same.

The structure for your revelations looks a lot like your desire line and conflict line.

Have a major revelation for each act.

Set it up at the beginning of your act, spend the act building towards the reveal, then end the act with that reveal.

Notice that this set-up gives you the opportunity to try a few different types and methods of revelations throughout your story. Mix it up. Try not to use the same type of revelation each time.

Keep them guessing.

If your revelations are predictable, then they have failed on a fundamental level because they did not build intrigue. A failed revelation can seriously backfire – instead of sitting on the edge of their seats, your audience’ll be rolling their eyes.