#16 Screenwriter: 2nd Half – Act II

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The first half of Act II is simple and complex at the same time; there are certain things that have to be kept in mind, such as creating interesting situations, creating intriguing characters, and creating increasingly difficult obstacles. However, once you
understand the simple mechanics of the yes/no reversals of Act II, you will have a solid approach  to work with, in the writing process.

Michael Hauge, is my personal favourite tutor on screen writing, in his excellent book Writing Screenplays That Sell gives excellent insight when it comes to story:

Your story must “enable a sympathetic character to overcome a series of increasingly difficult, seemingly insurmountable obstacles and achieve a compelling desire.” If you notice, Mr. Hauge didn’t say: “enable a character to overcome obstacles in order to achieve a desire”; he said that the character is a “sympathetic” character. The obstacles are: “increasingly difficult, seemingly insurmountable.” The desire is:“compelling.”

Check out this interview with Michael Hauge on You Tube

By mid-point in Act II, your protagonist learns all that they need to learn, or they simply run out of time and must act decisively. It’s at this point, your Wanderer morphs into a Warrior. We’ve previously discussed what happens by the end of Act II, and that’s where the protagonist reaches “the lowest of the lows”, having lost it all. They experience death in some way, shape, or form — only to be “reborn”.

Here is a classic mix of myth and legend from Scotland about a King who is a wanderer and becomes the warrior. The mentor is a spider:

HUNDREDS of years ago there was a king of Scotland and his name was Robert the Bruce. It was a good thing that he was both brave and wise, because the times in which he lived were wild and dangerous. The King of England was at war with him, and had led a great army into Scotland to drive him out of the land and to make Scotland a part of England.

Battle after battle he had fought with England. Six times Robert the Bruce had led his brave little army against his foes. Six times his men had been beaten, until finally they were driven into flight. At last the army of Scotland was entirely scattered, and the king was forced to hide in the woods and in lonely places among the mountains.
One rainy day, Robert the Bruce lay in a cave, listening to the rainfall outside the cave entrance. He was tired and felt sick at heart, ready to give up all hope. It seemed to him that there was no use for him to try to do anything more. As he lay thinking, he noticed a spider over his head, getting ready to weave her web. He watched her as she worked slowly and with great care. Six times she tried to throw her thread from one edge of the cave wall to another. Six times her thread fell short.

“Poor thing!” said Robert the Bruce. “You, too, know what it’s like to fail six times in a row.”

But the spider did not lose hope. With still more care, she made ready to try for a seventh time. Robert the Bruce almost forgot his own troubles as he watched, fascinated. She swung herself out upon the slender line. Would she fail again? No! The thread was carried safely to the cave wall, and fastened there.

“Yes!” cried Bruce, “I, too, will try a seventh time!”

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