Third Act Doldrums
So I called up a lady who knows a thing or two about plotting. Jamie Morris runs the Woodstream Writers Group in north Florida. I put the question to her: In a four-act structure, what the hell is supposed to happen in Act 3? Your character has bottomed out. She has to make it from that deep hole to the climax. Additionally, we're supposed to be right in the middle of "fun and games" as Blake Snyder puts it in his excellent book on plotting screenplays, Save the Cat. Where's my fun? Where's my games?
Here's what Jamie had to say:
|Morris: Plotting with a|
"The character has a choice here. She can either change for the better, find a way to work in this new world, or she can continue to resist change. But the point is, there are still struggles, there is still learning in Act 3. So to answer your question about maintaining tension, one answer is: I get to see the character engaged in that struggle with change. Just because she has a clue doesn't mean she knows how to use that clue, right? Even as she's struggling, she's getting traction, she's gaining on her problem.
"And then at the end of Act 3, your character reaches a turning point. It might be something exterior in the action of the plot that forces a reversal (*Gail's note: this is what Joyce has called the "curve ball"). What might differentiate the "low point" at the end of Act 2 is that the change there is internal--some people call this the "All is Lost" moment. And perhaps the change at the end of Act 3 is external ('The Dark Night of the Soul').
"The important thing is that this turning point at the end of Act 3 sends the character rushing toward the great climax of the book. Which happens somewhere in Act 4. Capiche?"
Um, yes. Of course, all these structures are models to play with, to make your own. The idea of struggle within competency is a good way to manage it: Think Rocky running up those steps at the Philadelphia museum. Not so easy, right? So many steps! Are your characters struggling, NaNo-ers? And Non-NaNo-ers? How do you sock it to them?
And here's a little something to inspire you for the second half of your writing November: