Act 2: Keeping the Middle from Muddling

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:


  1. If I could only – what stands in his way to storming the castle and rescuing the princess. (Money, skills, opportunity).
  2. All I want is to be Happy – the story about his fondest memory and why, and what his greatest dream is.
  3. 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
she is.

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.

Happy Writing!

Susie May


Act 2: Jumping back into the suspense!

Yesterday, I addressed Scene Flow, and how in a romance scene, you might decide to develop it a bit more, making it longer.  In a suspense, sometimes it’s nice to develop that before you jumpstart the action again.

Today, we’re going to jump back into the suspense, drawing that element forward.


Just to make sure I’m on the right track, I want to go back to my synopsis.  It’s still my roadmap, even though I’ve been taking a few day trips…

Luke wants his sister, who is a giant MacKenzie Grace fan to meet her, and the dinner out at the roadhouse seemed to go without a hitch…maybe no one will recognize her.  But what Luke doesn’t know is that someone has recognized Kenzie – the reporter from the Nashville paper, and she’s hanging around town to get the inside scoop.

A scoop she plans on selling to a national gossip magazine – MacKenzie Grace, hiding from her fans, in torrid love affair with man accused of being a fraud.

While buying Kenzie ice cream, Luke sees the reporter…and intercepts her.  Unfortunately, she is the snake Kenzie predicted…she’ll trade the truth about Kenzie for an exclusive from Luke.

Kenzie revels in the feeling of being a normal person, instead of a celebrity, diving into the simple pleasures of backyard barbeque, and playing croquet.  Maybe this is what she really wants – a home, a family…a man like Luke, who seems to enjoy her company…without the trappings of what her fame and money can bring to him.  He seems to care for her – Kenzie Grace Guinn, the girl who grew up in a trailer in the backhills of North Carolina.  The girl she’s nearly forgotten, and is starting to discover again.   If only she could hide here forever.

Okay, so I’m on the right track. Continue reading “Act 2: Jumping back into the suspense!”

Act 2: Scene Flow..Suspense and Romance, what’s the difference?

Sceneflow:  the difference between a suspense scene and  a romance scene?

If you read the last two weeks of posts and chapters about Limelight, you’ll notice that I took a bit more time in those chapters to develop the romance. (Read Chapter 5 & 6 Here Chapter 5 Luke  Chapter 6 Kenzie)  I could have split those chapters into shorter scenes/segments, but I wanted to really cement the romance between them before I launched more into the suspense.  Note they were longer chapters– as the book starts to move faster, I’ll have shorter chapters, or perhaps two or three shorter scenes in a chapter.

So, now that I’ve given them their first kiss, we’re about half-way through the story. (For the purposes of teaching, I’m keeping this novella at 12 chapters – about25K).  I’m going to let the suspense plot take over for a bit here until we’re ready to move into our next kiss.

But first, let’s start with our chapter momentum interview.  Since we ended in Kenzie’s POV, I’m going to let Luke do the talking next. Continue reading “Act 2: Scene Flow..Suspense and Romance, what’s the difference?”

Act 2: Let’s build the Romance!

In the last  chapter I posted, I dipped into a developed, romantic scene with Luke. [Chapter 4 Makenzie scene.] I’m  going to turn my attention to Kenzie.  Although we’re focusing on suspense this year on the blog, this is a romantic suspense, so occasionally during the story I need to slow it down and  allow the romance to take over ever so briefly. During these forays into the romance, I need to make sure I’m utilizing  my opportunity, because I don’t have a lot of time – I’ll need to cut back to
the suspense soon.

Therefore, I’ll  be looking toward building in some of those essential elements of a romance,  building like values, physical attraction, and the sense that they either  complete each other or make each other into better people. For more on those  essential Whys, here’s a recap:

Why do people  fall in love?

3 Reasons:

1.       They  complete each other

2.      They  make them better people

3.      They understand each other.

How do you develop these elements?

Continue reading “Act 2: Let’s build the Romance!”