Tag Archives | Act II

How to bring emotion to your plot. (Plot Busters)

In Act II there is something that Blake Snyder refers to as the B story (or basically the subplot).

And this is where you bring in the emotion, the personal stakes.

I figured with a humorous mystery like I SO DON’T DO SPOOKY that the emotion might be on the weak side. With the focus being on the mystery.

Boy was I wrong.

Barrie Summy does an incredible job balancing the main storyline or the Fun and Games of the first part of Act II with the B story.

In other words, the mystery is there but we connect to Sherry when we realize how much she misses her mother, which makes us care more about the mystery.

The emotion of the B story provides the motivation for the character to solve the mystery.

Below is a one-sentence break down of Act II

Break into two: (protagonist must make a proactive decision)

Sherry and her best friend, Junie, make a plan to follow leads.

B story: (the love story – not always romantic)

Sherry misses her mom (who is a ghost) and wants to earn some “real time” with her by solving the mystery.

Fun and Games: (the heart of the book – why we read it)

Sherry investigates and follows clue after clue – some of them leading to a dead end, but others set up the midpoint and climax.

Midpoint: (stakes are raised significantly – another big game changer)

In her undercover work, Sherry is found out and dropped off in the middle of a desert where she learns that the Ruler’s stalker is a ghost!

Bad guys close in: (Things get worse.)

Sherry goes ghost hunting with a “real” ghost hunter and learns how to catch a ghost and she learns who the ghost might be.

All is lost and Dark night of the soul:

The mystery continues and more truths are revealed but I didn’t find a true dark moment where Sherry feels all is lost. She does feel the stress of time running out, but that’s not quite the same thing.

And this ends Act II.  So without that dark moment how did I know where Act III started? With an obvious Break into three. But that’s next Monday.

How do you add emotion to your main storyline so it works? Share your tips.

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How to keep a literary novel afloat in the middle.

That’s right. Let’s dive into Act II of THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. And learn to stay afloat in Act II!

Break into two: (protagonist must make a proactive decision)

Again. This was easy for me to find. Remember the debate? It’s answered. Lennie strides into Act I by saying yes. She finally is willing to play her clarinet with Joe and all her grief comes pouring out. Joe is stunned. But it wasn’t just a random decision. In order to avoid Toby and grief, she decides to play.

B story: (the love story – not always romantic)

In Act I, Joe pursued and Lennie pushed him away. But now the world is upside down and they set off on the rocky road of love. They play together. They have fun together. And surprise, surprise because at times, Lennie feels joy.

Fun and Games: (the heart of the book – why we read it)

Why did I pick this book up? What were my expectations? I wanted to read about a girl dealing with her grief and moving on and figuring out how to do that. So, with her newfound decision of playing the clarinet comes other brave decisions. It’s really hard to call this section Fun and Games, but don’t take it too literally. It’s a breather before the tension spikes.

You’ll have to read the book to find out what those brave decisions are. #sorry

Midpoint: (stakes are raised significantly; another big game changer)

Again, in a plot-driven novel, the midpoint should be obvious. In a literary, character-driven novel what turns out to be a game changer is just on a smaller scale but still huge in Lennie’s world.

In Chapter 20, exactly half way, Lennie finally talks to her best friend, who she’s been ignoring. She tells her everything. This is huge! Lennie is letting someone into her life in a healthy situation.

Bad guys close in: (Things get even worse.)

In a character-driven novel there is no regrouping of the antagonist and his minions. It just isn’t like that. But, stakes are raised. Definitely.

I’ll just say that Lennie learns that Bailey, her sister, had secrets. Big secrets! And in her grief, she makes mistakes that affect her budding relationship with Joe.

All is Lost: (no hope left)

In chapter 30, Lennie is in her room. So many things come to a head. She realizes how Bailey’s secrets affect her too, and Joe is not coming back. And even worse, as the days pass, she no longer hears Bailey’s heels clicking in the hall. She’s getting used to her sister’s absence. Her sister’s clothes now smell like her, since she’s worn them so much. In all areas, Lennie has no hope left.

Dark Night of the Soul: (How does the protagonist feel about everything?)

Through out Chapter 30 we know exactly how Lennie feels. Miserable. Then her friend, Sarah, forces her to go to the movies. They see Joe and Rachel together. Rachel plays first chair clarinet, and Lennie plays second. But we all know that Lennie is better. At the end of this chapter, Lennie decides to challenge Rachel for first chair. (Who is this girl, who at the beginning wouldn’t even play her clarinet?)

And that ends a wonderfully structured Act II. Onward!

Can you find some of these elements in the middle of your current wip? Do you agree or disagree with me?

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How to keep tension through the middle.

In my last post I talked about how the book DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth hooked me in the first ten chapters by taking advantage of the Debate. And how she used that to tie the internal conflict to the external conflict. This made me care. It added believability and dimension to the main character.

It’s called high stakes. The main character had to make a decision that mattered. Blake Snyder refers to it as primal. The decision was about family and survival. A universal motivation that any reader can relate to. And so the dystopian part of the novel faded and I was just reading about a girl making tough choices and dealing with the consequences.  #win

But after Act I, the conflict didn’t stop. The debate didn’t stop. The debate turned into part of her character arc and growth over the course of the novel. In other words, the opening directly affected the entire novel. It wasn’t a gimmick.

But I loved how each chapter continued to have high stakes. New situations cropped up that might not have been part of the main storyline but made me turn the pages pretty fast. It’s called subplots that work. Almost every chapter created a new tense situation for the character to deal with. And those situations directly affected the emotional arc of the main character.

And the midpoint introduced a major plot twist/mystery.

Keeping tension through the middle:

  • Create an opening that directly affects the entire novel.
  • Make sure the main character’s motivations are primal.
  • If you can, continue the debate into Act II.
  • The main character should make tough choices and deal with the consequences.
  • Have a well-developed character arc.
  • Create subplots where the main character must make choices.
  • Create subplots that affect the main storyline.
  • Create a midpoint that changes the story. Reveal something big.

Yes I created this list based on a best-seller commercial book. But the successful character driven more literary books I’ve read and analyzed contain all these elements too, on a scale that fit the story.

This is what I love to read and write.

What do you love to read and write? Tell me. Study those books and create your own lists for what works and apply them to your writing.

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