You Lost it in the Second Act
August 28th, 2020
Joseph Campbell calls the period between the beginning and the end as being “in the belly of the beast”. A time where the writer enters the slough of despair. A framework wherein both the protagonist and the writer doubt themselves and wish the journey had never begun. We’ve all been there and done that.
As writers we know that Act One is an easy thing. You come up with a great idea and it just pours out of you. Act Three usually isn’t that hard either, you’ve seen your ending and you know where to go, so you go there in a fury. However, it’s when we are inside the belly of the beast – the Second Act – that we realize we didn’t really have this all the way thought out. Some of you misidentify this struggle as Writer’s Block, but it might not be.
Frankly, Writer’s Block really isn’t a block at all, it typically occurs somewhere between page forty and page sixty and it really is a symptom of a larger issue. So, thinking that we have entered that blockade, we do all those things we read about: we meditate, relax, go for walks, do other things and let our creative mind ferment the story. But still nothing.
The Second Act is truly where your story is made.
It’s not that you as a writer have suddenly lost the ability to write, it’s that you started either too quickly, without a clearly defined narrative spine, or truly didn’t know where you were really going with the story. There are ways to avoid Second Act pitfalls before you even set out to write.
But even then, you could have taken all the proper steps before writing and still hit that Second Act wall once inside the belly of the beast. Even then don’t despair as there are proven ways to reevaluate your story, assess the narrative spine, and fix those problem areas and get you back on track.
I’ll share one thing right now with you that causes screenwriters to experience Second Act problems and that’s structure. No, I’m not talking about using a Field or Vogler et al approach, but that when you look at the thing you don’t account for the “why.” Structure is a result of the central character’s relationship with a central dramatic premise. Character creates plot. Who wants what, why, and what happens if they don’t get it? Important things to know, things that if not properly fleshed out in your mind or outline, can truly cause Second Act angst.
For more take my 8 week class, You Lost it in the Second Act seminar starts September 14.
CLICK HERE for more information about the 8 week seminar.
About the Author
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(Follow on Twitter) Christopher Wehner is a published author and produced screenwriter, EL CAMINO CHRISTMAS @Netflix; visit his IMDB page for future projects. Christopher has been a leading member of the online screenwriter's community going back to the 1990s. In 2001 he published the groundbreaking book Screenwriting on the Internet: Researching, Writing and Selling Your Script on the Web,.
To contact Chris visit his website: Warm Beer Productions.