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I’ve mentioned Witness (1985) before. You should really go watch it now, as it’s a textbook example of story-structure. The movie is about as good as it gets story-structure-wise. Especially it’s turning-points.

In the movie, Harrison Ford is a good cop who harbours a bit of prejudice for the Amish. An Amish boy witnesses a murder and must be protected, before the killers and kill him too.

Then the boy recognizes one of the killers: a cop!

At the First Turning-Point, Harrison Ford’s Detective John Book gets ambushed and nearly killed by the killer. This tells him that the Police Chief is one of the bad guys! So, he takes the kid and flees - to an Amish farm.

Your Second Act ends with, as you can probably guess, your Second Turning-Point.

The Second Turning-Point acts exactly the same as the First Turning-Point: it dramatically raises the stakes for your protagonist, it moves the story into a new phase, and it often changes the setting.

Notice how, at the First Turning Point, the stakes rise dramatically for the protagonist - he’s just a regular cop going about his business - and, all of a sudden - he’s now on the run from the police! His own team wants to kill him!

Notice how the setting also changes. We go from the status quo in the First Act - to confrontation in the Second Act. So, we need a new setting. One that’s different from the status quo.

In Witness, that’s the Amish farm.

At the farm, Detective Book learns to overcome his prejudice of the Amish people - and falls in love with an Amish Girl.

At the Second Turning-Point, the bad-guys arrive at the farm, looking to kill Book and the kid!

Again, notice how the stakes rise tremendously for the protagonist! He’s a cop who’s on-the-run, but safely hidden - and now he’s a cop who’s being hunted down by other cops so that they can execute him!

The danger goes from ‘out there’ (external to the protagonist) in the Second Act - to IMMEDIATE in the Third Act.

The Second Turning Point is where you bring that danger from hanging over the protagonist’s head - to punching him in the goddamn face! With a rock. Covered in spikes.

The setting also changes as we cross into Act 3. We go from idyllic life on the farm - to being chased (around that farm). Although, granted, this isn’t as big of a setting-change as we see at Witness’s First Turning-Point.

There’s a Final Battle, a climax and a denouement.

If Detective Book doesn’t overcome his internal-flaw, if he doesn’t complete his character-arc, he can’t win. It’s only because he overcomes his prejudice of the Amish - that they

fight for him and protect him at the climax. If he remains prejudiced, he will never succeed. It’s only overcoming this flaw that allows him to succeed in the end.

Witness is about the best film you can watch for learning about screenplay story-structure. Their structure is rock-solid. And, because of that structure, they were able to make a really good film that works on so many levels.

Before you discovered this site - would you even have known there was anything going on, structure-wise in Witness? Or, would it have just seemed like a normal movie?

I don’t expect you to have a story-structure that’s as solid as Witness, but you should try and come close. Your screenplay lives and dies based on its structure!


Second Turning-Point’s often come with a false-victory or a false-defeat. This is because false-victories or false-defeats virtually always raise the stakes, by definition. So, they’re an easy way to accomplish what the screenwriter needs.

You need something to happen to your protagonist that dramatically raises the stakes, and preferably changes the setting in the process.

Something that dramatically harms the protagonist’s chances of succeeding in their quest.

In Witness, John Book is in danger, but he’s kept the kid safe (his goal). He’s winning.

But, at the Second Turning Point, he’s not winning any more. He’s now losing. The danger becomes much more immediate. The antagonists showing up at the farm change everything. His quest is now much more difficult to accomplish. Not only does he have to protect the kid, he’s got a team of policemen hunting him down and trying to kill him at the same time!

The danger is no longer intellectual or perceived from a distance - it’s right in their faces.

So, that’s what you do with your Second Turning Point - you bring the danger to your protagonist. The danger goes from ‘out there’ - to ‘in here.’ It goes from external to internal. Hanging over his head to punching him in the head.

That means that Second Turning Point is often the place where the antagonist returns! That’s an easy way of raising the stakes and taking the story to a new level. The protagonist was fighting an antagonist who was some distance away - and now he’s fighting an antagonist who’s right here, right now. And, as such, it often leads pretty quickly to the big action scenes and the final battle.

Just like in Witness, immediately after the Second Turning Point, there’s the chase through the Amish farm followed by the final confrontation between the antagonist and the protagonist.

And, of course, the denouement.

Your Second Turning Point is what turns your protagonist inexorably onto a collision-course with your antagonist. Now, he has no choice anymore. He’s committed.

He has to face his fears, suck it up and either win or lose. The Second Turning Point leaves him no other way out.

Writing Your Screenplay’s Second Turning-Point: FORWARD The Second Act - Everything’s Looking Great!  Until It’s Not…

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The First Act of your Three-Act Structure. This is where you introduce your main characters to the audience and get the plot rolling. The end of your 1st Act comes with the First Turning Point, the point at which your protagonist chooses his quest The 2nd Act - Where the bulk of your plot goes. Confrontation - this is where your protagonist confronts the status quo and attempts to change it for the better Your 2nd Act can't end without your Second Turning Point! Things may seem bleak for your protagonist, but all is not lost yet! There is still hope!... Backstory - what happened in the past. Exposition, expository dialogue, etc... It all comes down to this - your climax! The end of your story. The conclusion. The one thing everyone in the audience wants to know: does the protagonist win? The 3rd Act - the final act in your three-act structure, where everything is decided, the climax, the conclusion, the end. Your Film's Theme - what your movie is really about. The undercurrent. The second act of your screenplay should be filled with ups and downs, dramatically speaking of course. Like a roller-coaster. It's all about creating conflict and drama. BACK Welcome to SCREENPLAY.today - your free online screen-writing program - learn how to write a screenplay for free! Free Online Screenplay Writing Course from SCREENPLAY.today - screenwriting advice, help, information, hints, tips & tricks