Writing the Second ACT

What I found interesting and worth taking away from this book is a lot. This is by no means a plagiarism or an attempt to summarize the entire book. This is simply my notes during my reading of this book.


A solid foundation supports the structure, concept and vision of a Motion Picture.

Writer’s Block is a result of lack of planning.

Michael Halperin


  1. FOCUS: Understanding the underlying drive behind the character provides them with a center of gravity.
  2. LOGIC: Remain logical within the created world. They are constants within the world of the character’s emotional turmoil.
  3. CHARACTER: Propelling the story forward. They become the story and their power makes it work.
    • Question: How and Why do they react to the situations we set up for them?
    • Answer: By developing their life stories, we can answer that question.

Successful stories usually have a moral attached to them.

Goals need not be lofty.


  • What is the story about?
  • What is the ongoing conflict?
  • From where does this conflict originate?


  • Rolls off a twist in ACT I.
  • Our Protagonist must cope with an evolving situation.
  • You Expect that it is all over. No. Now comes the end.


  • Conflicts must resolve.
  • Plots reconciled.
  • Relationships may continue beyond the ends of the screenplay.

  • Act II develops from the setup we create in ACT I.
  • Motivations established for the characters become refined and redefined.
  • The main elements of conflict and tension heighten.
  • We reveal moment-by-moment the anxieties, needs, wants and desires of protagonists and antagonists.
  • Foreshadowing: Without hints or clues, the story may crumble.

Establishing the major theme or themes of a story at the outset makes the development of the second act much easier. Those themes help generate the conflict to come. Also, aid in creating tension. Without tension, the story would be dull.


Heroes or Anit-Heroes want something that appears out of their reach, and they take ACTION to get it.

The story must move forward so that our protagonist/s continually cope with an evolving situation.


  1. At what point does the crisis begin to expand?
  2. What will happen to our characters when that happens?
  3. How will they extricate themselves from the developing events?

Heightening risks for protagonist/s in ACT II focuses the audience’s interest. Whatever they happen to be, it is important for the audience to identify with them and stay with our protagonist/s.

Understand the motivation that exists for the antagonist& protagonist. Beware of villains becoming set pieces who only function as obstacles for the benefit of the protagonists’ heroics.

Think of the character’s anxieties & motivations.

If the adversaries (protagonist/antagonist) desire that which they cannot or should not have, conflict will erupt, maintaining tension in the screenplay all the way through to ACT III. Give both enough strength to be worthy opponents.

“The backbone of any story is character”

Michael Halperin

The purpose of ACT II is character revelation.

The central place where revelations, motivations and confrontations take place – making the stories that we create to live and breathe.

Heroes could be ordinary people thrown into unusual situations.

ACT II opens the way for an in-depth examination of who they are and why they act the way they do. It also gives an opportunity to explore our protagonists’ enemies and allies.

Imposing a plot is not truthful. Let the characters lead you.

If the audience is taken unawares, the unexpected may not only come as a shock, but it will also divert attention to the lack of logic in the situation.

Whatever the leading characters in our stories want or need, they should achieve it easily. The second act gives room and opportunity to build bumps in the road over which they ride; to erect barricades over which they have to climb; to launch attacks against which they must defend themselves.

Rising Tension and Conflict are the hallmarks of ACT II.

One of the key aspects of ACT II is the evolution of the crisis or series of crises for our protagonist/s.

ACT II should also develop the viewer’s emotional investment in the main character.

All the story complications will not mean a thing unless we propel our characters and the audience into the third ACT.


Protagonists hold something precious. Therefore, they become targets.

The chase, the pursuit, or the quest in the second act should lead our protagonists to discover some kind of truth or special knowledge.

Antagonists need to prevent the reveal of that knowledge.

ACT III would be almost impossible without the anxiety from the characters infiltrating the audience.

The SETUP in ACT I and the CONFLICT in ACT II, foreshadow things to come.

Revelations and Twists (emotional, plot, action) usually come together.


When we resolve the primary problem, our hero/es look as if they have won the day, and all is well with the world, Then disaster strikes, the story often turns in new, unexpected directions, exposing the subtext.

Audience should be personally invested in the story.

We have to understand why the protagonists have become involved in the adventure, Motivation behind characters.

STORY and CHARACTER cannot separate from one another.

.the end.


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