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It also means that the action has to become a lot more intense. Your main-character is not just sitting back at home observing the status quo anymore - he’s actually out there trying to accomplish something. The stakes are much higher now.

Which means that the dangers are also much more intense now.

As your protagonist embarks on their quest, you have to ramp up the drama pretty quick. You need rising action.

Put road-blocks in his way. Have him always on the verge of abject failure. Keep piling on the pressure. Make things worse and worse and worse for him.

Of course, you don’t want to be too relentless. We’re not making Come and See here. The audience will get turned off pretty fast if your screenplay is just unrelentingly bleak the entire time. They identify with the protagonist, so give them a victory here and there amidst all the defeats and set-backs. Give them a little hope every once in a while.

Then, of course, extinguish that hope in the most horrible manner possible.

When they can’t take it any more, give them some hope once again. Rinse and repeat. Ad infinitum.

The end of your First Act (the first turning-point) gave your protagonist a quest (or goal) that he (or she) must accomplish by the end of the film. Life just changed dramatically for him. He was stuck in the original status quo, but now he’s out changing it. He made a choice, and now he’s out trying to get what he wants. This means that the Second Act usually starts with a setting-change. Your protagonist has got to go off and do something. He has to go somewhere.

One of the reasons we want to make use of rising-action in the first half of the second act so much is that second acts tend to be BORING!

The protagonist doesn’t have a quest in the first act - and the third act is mostly about wrapping everything up. So, your second act tends to be full of exposition and plot. All the interesting, exciting and fun scenes always seem to end up in the other acts, never in the second.

Watching endless amounts of plot play-out tends to get a little dry for the audience. Unless all of the plot-points are murders or something like that.

Exposition and backstory also tend to be boring. Who wants to sit there and listen to a character talk about something that happened to them - we want to see it happen!

But, of course, you have all these plot-threads from multiple different story-structures flying around. You have absolutely no choice but to fill the second act with minutiae.

That’s where rising-action comes in.

You want to make things dicey for your protagonist pretty much right away in the second act. Show him that this quest isn’t going to be nearly as easy as he had hoped. It’s going to be a lot more dangerous (or require a lot more work, or whatever).

Always be thinking about rising-action.

In every story-line and in every scene. Always try to make things more exciting/interesting/scary/fun for the viewer. Keep raising the stakes. All the way through, not just at the turning-points.

You want things to move quickly. Keep advancing that plot. Raising those stakes.

Another reason you want to get to rising-action early - is that you will probably have some sort of false-victory or false-defeat at the mid-point (about half-way through your second act). So, you’ll need the action to be at a fever-pitch by then. That doesn’t leave you much time to ramp everything up (to what is pretty much a false-ending). You need a lot to have happened by then.

Start your second act off with a bang. Don’t get complacent.

Try Not to Make Your Second Act So Boring: The Mid-Point - The False-Defeat: Rising Action

You probably didn’t have time or space to do much more than introduce your supporting-characters and sub-plots in the First Act. So, you are also going to need to get your sub-plots rolling about this time as well.

When creating your sub-plots, think about rising-action there as well. Your sub-plots should have basic three-act structures, just like your main-plot, so you’re going to be faced with the same boredom-problem there as well. Raise the stakes! Get the action going! As quickly as possible.

Kicking-Off the Sub-Plots:

Screenwriting 101:

PROPER SCREENPLAY FORMAT

SCREENWRITING SOFTWARE

SCREENPLAY TEMPLATE

SAMPLE SCREENPLAY PAGES

BEGINNER SCREENWRITERS

FILM SCHOOLS

SCREENWRITING DEGREES

SCREENPLAY STORY STRUCTURE

HOW LONG SHOULD EACH ACT BE?

THREE ACT STRUCTURE

START WRITING NOW

STORY-STRUCTURE TEMPLATE

THE FIRST TURNING POINT

THE SECOND TURNING POINT

PROTAGONIST’S CHARACTER-ARC

GET COVERAGE


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