Is your Act 2 slowing down? Do you find it muddling along? Are you running out of content and creating mundane, circular scenes? Here’s a way to fill Act 2 with powerful content.
The last scene of Luke and Kenzie’s story was an example of a combo reaction scene to the Romance, and the ramping up of the suspense thread again. I also threw in a piece of the spiritual thread – that idea that relationships are what hold us together
and make us better people – which is what Luke is supposed to learn on this journey.
Just for a second, I’m going to dive into a discussion about the spiritual journey. Although this is a romantic suspense, every book has some sort of theme, and even deeper, a story question. It’s this question your hero and heroine have to grapple with as they journey through the plot. If your plot does not make them look inside and question who they are, and thereby grow as a person, then your story has no purpose. The point of a story is character change. J It is this character change thread that will give your Act 2 relevant and powerful content.
I teach a class called Character Layering – it’s a method of character revelation in a story that highlights your hero/heroine’s change, and it is accomplished through what I call, Essential Scenes. Here is a list of those scenes and when they occur:
Layer One: His Attire: (which reveals his Identity) mannerisms, clothing, public goals(Hint: Commonly this is chapters 1-2)
In Meet the Hero or Heroine, you have a scene that shows:Their Storyworld,Their Identity (that essential element that makes them who they are)Their Goals (what they want)The Glimpse of the Greatest Dream – We want to see what he’s after, what matters to him. You do this by having him see what he wants—just a glimpse of it.Their Competence (if you need to save word count)
Layer Two: His Behavior (which reveals Character/Values/Competence): Remember, this layer reveals how he treats people, his habits (which also reveal values), his reactions to stress (which reveal past hurts, and his essential character).
I am good,so very good (the scene that reveals their values and their habits)
Just give me my blankie (his reactions to stress)
Layer Three: His Choices (which reveal purpose/Noble Cause): This layer reveals his external struggles regarding plot, his greatest dreams, and why he thinks he’ll never find them, his obstacles to love.There are a few scenes that accomplish this layer:
- If I could only – what stands in his way to storming the castle and rescuing the princess. (Money, skills, opportunity).
- All I want is to be Happy – the story about his fondest memory and why, and what his greatest dream is.
- This may lead to The One that Got away story – the revelation of his past romances
Layer Four: His In-security: His internal struggles, greatest dreams and fears, how he feels about love, his
spiritual vacancies. (This might occur anywhere from chapters 12-18.)So you need an Out of Character scene – Have the hero do something that goes contrary to his goals,
Which then leads to the What if I lose everything scene: Have a hint of his greatest fears happen, a sort of foreshadowing of the black moment, and have him consider giving up.
The Sacrificial Act
makes him heroic, but also changes him into the person he needs to be.
Layer Five: His Spiritual Lie and the discovery of the truth.
(Often this occurs near the climatic ending, anywhere from chapter 16-20.)
A Black Moment relates to the greatest fear. It’s when it comes true in some way. You need the Black Moment Event scene, which leads to the Breakdown/Epiphany Scene.
On my character change journey, Luke has accomplished all of Layer 3, and part of Layer 4, so I’ve moved him along sufficiently. However, Kenzie has a journey also, so as I construct the next chapter, I’m going to check in with this chart and see where
When she was on her date with Luke, she dipped into Layer 3, sharing a bit of herself – but I think Kenzie needs more revelation – what stands in her way to happiness? What is her greatest dream? I’ll touch on these in this chapter, as well as move her toward layer 4 – uncharacteristic behavior.
Using this chart, as well as some of the others helps me find powerful content for Act 2, and keeps the middle from, uh, muddling. J It gives the story focus as they move forward and reveals the essential information for each step in the journey. If you’re hunting for content for Act 2, try inserting an essential scene and see how it opens the story to new plot threads and deeper character revelation.
Tomorrow, we’ll move into the Character Interview, the Story Threads, the Scene Starter and the first line.