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The Second Turning-Point changed everything. Your protagonist’s quest now seems nearly impossible to achieve. Something changed, and now everything seems lost.

So, you are basically telling a new story as you start your Third Act. The setting probably changed (or got a lot more dangerous). The threat is now immediate, instead of just a cloud overhanging everything, it’s actually in your protagonist’s face.

And, your protagonist should be devastated. Things just got a hell of a lot worse for him right now. The quest required Herculean efforts before, but now what??? What on Earth could he possibly do to right this sinking ship? There’s probably a ticking-clock too...

The Third Act is the final act in your screenplay. It’s where everything gets decided. Where everything is finally resolved once and for all.

The First Act shows the original status quo - and the Third Act shatters that status quo into a million pieces and ushers in a new one. A better one (at least for your protagonist).

You could, of course, put your Pit of Despair here. But your protagonist might not have time to brood, as the danger is much more immediate now and any dawdling could end in disaster. There’s not much time for long, brooding scenes either. Your Third Act should only be a little bit longer than your First Act. That doesn’t leave you a lot of pages to get everything done. 25 pages can go really fast. Especially when you have to write endings for all your sub-plots, a love-scene, epic action scenes, a final confrontation where the antagonist gets to drone on endlessly about why he did everything, a big final fight, a climax, and a denouement. That’s a lot to get done in 25 or 30 pages!

In most sports movies, the 3rd Act is the big tournament, or the big fight, or in the case of Breaking Away (1979) it comes in the form of the big intramural bicycle race. For Act 3, the setting now moves to the college stadium and our attention is now focused on the bike race.

When I’m talking about big confrontations and action sequences - it’s easy to assume I’m talking about action movies. But, that’s not the case. Take Breaking Away, for instance.

The Third Act is just a stupid bike race! Those aren’t very high stakes. But, of course, for the characters they actually are big stakes. They’ve felt pushed-over by the college kids their whole lives - and this is finally their chance to show them!

The big action scenes are just peddling bikes around a track! That doesn’t sound like big action. But, it is. For the characters. No guns or explosions needed, yet still exciting and action-packed.

Heck, the final battle is just taping his feet to the pedals and sprinting for the photo-finish, for Christ-sakes!

Any story can have high-stakes and big action. Even if it’s a romance or a movie about chess. Big action doesn’t necessarily mean car chases and gun-fights. It can be anything, as long as that ‘anything’ is meaningful to the protagonist. As long as the stakes are high enough for him.

When you start your Third Act, your protagonist should be down and there should be almost no hope for him. He’ll need to look at the problem in a new way, if he ever hopes to achieve victory. He’ll need to come at this from another direction. He’ll need to think ‘outside the box.’

If he doesn’t, he can’t even hope of winning.

There are a bunch of things you’ll need to know before you start writing Act 3:

  1. What happens at your Second Turning Point? And how does this affect the plot, the protagonist and the other characters?
  2. How do the stakes rise for the protagonist?
  3. How does the setting change?
  4. Which sub-plots do I need to finish in Act 3?
  5. Is there a love-story that needs to be dealt with?
  6. What is the protagonist’s character-arc?
  7. How is this character-flaw affecting the potential success or failure of the protagonist’s quest?
  8. How will overcoming that flaw allow the protagonist to finally have the resources needed to achieve victory?
  9. Is there a big action sequence leading up to the Final Battle and the Climax?
  10. What happens at the Final Battle? Does the antagonist have a big speech or dialogue with the protagonist?
  11. What happens at the Climax? How is everything resolved?
  12. What happens at the Denouement? What’s the new status quo? Is your protagonist finally accepted into society? Does everyone stand and applaud him? Does he kiss the girl and live happily ever after?

Your Third Act should be roughly 20 to 30 pages long (in a normal 100 page script).

The first third (of the Third Act) is usually spent wrapping up sub-plots and love-stories.

The second third is usually spent on the big action sequences that lead up to the Final Battle.

And, the final third is usually spent on the Climax and the Denouement.

Most importantly, writers tend to be burnt-out by the time they get to their Third Act. Therefore, the Third Act is almost always the worst-written of the acts in most screenplays. People spend hundreds and hundreds of hours honing their First act - then only a fraction of that time on their 3rd act. Don’t make this mistake. Spend extra time on your final act. It’s the ending of your film. The most important scenes. It needs love too.

Act 3: Writing Your Screenplay’s Third Act (3rd Act): FORWARD The Third Act

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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