Welcome to the next part of our deep dive into the beat sheet. We’ve looked at the beats that make up the first act. Now it’s time for the second act. This is where things get real for the main character.
This should be completely opposite or different from act one as possible. The hero knows what they need to do and needs to do it. The hero’s goal at this point will not fix the problem. That’s key. The hero has chosen the wrong answer. They think it’s the right one, but they’ve missed the mark. They’ve chosen a bandage over the solution. It’s what they want to do not what they need to do.
They may be acting on what they learned from someone else who might not have their best course in mind. The adviser could even be in league with the villain, if not the villain themselves. The hero will see that their actions are not solving the problem, but can’t see why.
If you plan a subplot to your story, this is the place where you introduce the character who ‘stars’ in that story. This character could be the hero’s love interest, mentor or even nemesis. This character only shows up as a result of the catalyst. This is the character who guides the hero to the correct solution. There can be more than one of these guides.
Now we move into the fun and games of the story. We want to see how the character is doing on their journey to solve the problem theyface. This should cover the first half of the second act. It can be fun for the reader, but for the hero. At this point, the hero either shines or flops around like a fish out of water.
Have the hero take one step forward and two steps back. Things are going well, then they go bad. Then they go well again. These are the hills and valleys of the roller coaster. Doing this will drive the story to the midpoint which is our next beat.
As you may have guessed, the midpoint is the middle of the story. It should be either a false victory or a false defeat. It also raises the stakes for solving the story problem. Perhaps a character’s life hangs in the balance. The hero has reached a fork in the road of his journey. The hero believes they have won or lost at this point. The main story and the subplot intersect at this point.
If the hero thinks they’ve won at this point, you need to show they haven’t. Show that the main problem is still unsolved. If the hero thinks they’ve lost, show the problem is still not solved. Show them looking for a new solution.
These will raise the story stakes. The hero has the chance to change. Things ramp up and deadlines become plain. The clock is ticking. Now we see the difference between what the hero wants and what they need. The story changes directions and now the hero has no choice but to move forward. They can’t go back.
Next week, the second half of of the second act
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