The living problem of ACT II Storytelling #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

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Thank you Raimey!


  I don’t know many people who run into drama and maximal conflict with their arms wide-open, ready to face off with someone near and dear to them, ready to cut them off or curse them to infinity and beyond, excited about being alone because trust is something we no longer know.

  Welcome to the world of writing ACT II.

  In 90 Days to Your Novel, Sarah Domet states, in real life, we are “conflict adverse … We strive to stay out of trouble and make decisions to bring us as close as possible to our desired outcomes … unless seriously provoked.”

   I reread this page just yesterday. I reread it over and over because finally, I’ve been given permission to do a very hard thing for me, create tension, difficult tension, which might really hurt the characters we breathe life into.

  ACT I is the introduction to your character and the world. ACT II is what Domet calls “the story.”

  In the Hunger Games … ACT I shows us Katniss as a realistic survivor whose mission is to provide for her younger sister because her father is dead and her mother lost herself while grieving. Katniss has one trusted friend with the same survival mission. Life is as it is. Then suddenly she finds herself at the name drawing ceremony when a boy and girl will enter an Olympian style fight to the death. Her younger sister is selected. Shocked, Katniss volunteers to take her place. ACT II begins on the train on the way to capital where she’s exposed to her wildest fantasies of food, clothing and the comforts of what was once an unattainable lifestyle. Her perception of what she is has to change. She must become pretty and fake. She must make allies of people she may one day kill. Survival is not just about skill anymore, and can she play a different version of herself to survive for her sister against her internal nature?

  In Jane Eyre … Act I is all about a young ordinary orphan growing up devote to her christian faith and unwilling to compromise her internal character. Finally free of a hateful aunt and an orphanage, she takes a well respected position as a governess. ACT II is all about her conversations with a sour older patron of the home. Unexpectedly, she develops feelings for the patron. When she finds out he loves her too, she falls hard and her love challenges her internal strength and christian devotion where she must ultimately make the choice between her faith and her strength, or, the only love she’s ever known.


  How do we take away what our characters want the most?

  • According to 90 Days to Your Novel, the best place to start is a timeline of events between ACT 1 and ACT 2.
  • Note the plot points of wants and needs.
  • Ask yourself how you keep your character from getting what he or she truly wants along the way.
  • Ask yourself, What continues to keep her/him from getting it and how can I deepen the conflict? 
  • How does the character motive and wants contribute to the action into deeper conflict?
  • Lastly, what points are left to get him or her to the climax, when finally you are free of ACT II.

Remember, bad things happen to all of us. Bad things must happen to your beloved characters. So as you write through ACT II remember this: Don’t give your MC this deep want or desire. ACT III is the choice of this attainment.

Additional Sources:

About Erika Beebe

Author, dreamer, and a momma to a couple of wonderful kids, I try to live life everyday in hope and inspire others along my way.

Posted on May 15, 2018, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. It’s funny. Once again I’m reminded of how the same idea can be expressed in many ways, and often, even as you recognize the familiarity of the underlying idea, it’s still like seeing “it” for the first time all over again.
    I’m definitely going to take a look at “90 Days to Your Novel”.
    In some ways this reminds me of a book I’ve been reading, “The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller”.
    That text places a strong emphasis on a character’s main goal, and a significant but independent weakness, which is regularly and directly attacked when the character tries to pursue their goal.
    In both cases the key is finding ways to keep increasing the difficulty, and change the nature of the challenge. It’s not just a matter of a steeper incline. Audiences want to see new types of challenges, like different facets of a complex whole, circling around that central issue that becomes the meaning of the story.

    • I like how you put “steeper incline,” and changing the challenge because that was the hard learning point for me. Thank you for sharing your resource Adam. I will have to check that one out too. Happy Hop Day 🙂

  2. You are an inspiration Erica 🙂

  3. I really do like 90 Days to your Novel, but I’m not conflict averse, and I wonder if this is a generalization based on how the author lives her life. I don’t invite conflict, but I also don’t stay quiet if, for instance, I see someone wronged, and I don’t need serious provocation to do something about it, probably to my detriment. But I get what she’s saying, that it’s logical to avoid conflict for the sake of self-preservation. I feel like I’m ranting. This is a great post. I wonder if my attitude shows up in my writing, if my characters have too much, say, interpersonal conflict. 🙂

    • I think if your characters come from you then They are exactly as they need to be. I should Have put in my post some writers but I did I not. Have a great rest of your day Raimey 🙂

  4. i love torturing my characters and keeping what they want out of reach… It’s something I had to learn how to do, though. Great post 🙂

  5. In my third book, I threw all but the kitchen sink at my main character. And I enjoyed it!

  6. Good insight, Erika. I like the Act I, Act II approach and your examples. You have to build a hill for your character to climb, and then describe how they get to the top (or how they stumble).

  7. Louise@DragonspireUK

    Great tips 🙂
    I’m probably in danger of having too many bad things happen to my characters. They’ll get what they want, eventually, but they’ll really have to work for it!

  8. Let me also add the most interesting characters are dysfunctional–at least to some degree. Well adjusted, level-headed people stay out of trouble and when they can’t, it’s not of their making. 😉

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  9. Loni Townsend

    I think I’m a bit twisted because I take morbid delight in torturing my characters and throwing them into terrible situations.

  10. Thanks so much for sharing this! Giving the protagonist their desire, but then taking it away is certainly an area that’s ripe with tension and suspense. This is definitely something that I’m working on in my stories, since I’m probably the definition of conflict averse. 🙂

  11. Really great info. I’m bookmarking this page to come back to as I need to. I’ll also have to check out 90 Days to a Novel. I haven’t read it. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  12. Identifying your character’s goal (desire) and what’s keeping him/her from it is a sure way to develop a story and plot. It also helps with writing a query letter. 🙂

  13. spunkonastick

    What makes it even more interesting is if the character doesn’t even realize what he/she wants until getting through that second act. It might be a goal they didn’t know they were pursuing because they were after something else.

  14. Great examples to show the progression from Act 1 to Act 2. Thanks for sharing your insight into Domet’s structure breakdown. Ensuring your character has a clear goal is crucial for telling the story. One tip I discovered is that if the goal is positive (wanting something instead of wanting to avoid something), it will help your main character feel proactive.

  15. Fascinating. I love your examples. The conflict is what makes the story real, the story engaging. Thanks for sharing!

  16. I love the way you summarized this focusing on Act II. It’s a challenge to take away what the character wants most and not be too dramatic. The examples help clarify this issue.

  17. Victoria Marie Lees

    Thank you so much for the clear examples, Erika Beebe. They greatly help me to understand. Thanks for sharing this with your followers. All best to you.

  18. I’ve never read 90 days to your novel. It sounds really good. I like the idea of taking away what your characters want most. Thanks for sharing these tips.

  19. Act II is the trial of fire that reveals whether an author is either going to go up in ash and smoke or will emerge instead as tempered steel. Ugh. I hate it 🙂 These are great pointers you share here, Erika.

    Thanks so much for coming over to Michelle’s Writer-in-Transit on IWSG day for my bit on nonfiction!
    Guilie @ Life In Dogs

  20. Excellent tip. It’s good to be unkind, right?

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