Just as the first ten pages told you the next twenty, those first thirty pages will now tell you about the next thirty. You’re going to be alright.
READ THE FIRST 30 PAGES
Look at where your characters came from. Look at where he’s going. Have you told us everything we need to know up to this moment? Do we know the hero well enough to know how he is likely to act, so that when he grows we see he is acting differently?
Do not be concerned if you think you haven’t done this. You have done this. You just don’t know it yet.
Now accept your first thirty pages. I mean it. Accept them. If you don’t, you’ll be a lot of trouble to yourself when we need you the most.
YOUR TURNING POINT
Today you need to get from Act I turning point to the first indication of growth. Something has happened. Your hero is now on a course toward what he wants or he is reacting to an action that has happened to him. On page 45 you’ll have a symbolic scene showing how this action is starting to affect him. It’s a kind of summation scene that tells us where we’ve come to and where we’re going.
Has this ever happened to you? You think you have a plan – you’re getting ready – and then the phone rings and the plan is changed. It takes you a minute to get your twelve-ton train of thought going on a different track. Depending on the size of the surprise, you can actually feel it in your body. Your molecules screech to a stop. Regroup and slowly labour off in the new direction. Think of a time this has happened for you. Now, this is the feeling that your hero is experiencing at the Act I turn.
Let’s say that the hero is getting ready to go visit his grandmother in the hospital. He gets a call that his grandmother has just died. What does he do? Often people in this situation go to the hospital anyway. Somehow they need to see the empty bed. They need to be told again. They need to carry on their activities and assimilate the news slowly.
Remember, you are in the business of showing external actions that reveals your character’s inner feeling.
So – something has just happened to your character. What’s he going to do now? Here are some choices human beings make. When we are stopped, when there is a sudden jolting change in our circumstances, we deny it, we get angry, we try to get back how it was. Finally, when we are ready, we accept it, and in the accepting we can go forward.
So that is page 30 to page 45. Jolt, then reaction. When we react in an old way to a new event, we get conflict. We are forced to react in a new way, and until we do, we will have conflict. Show us that conflict.
Here’s an example from life: I have a friend whose husband left her. After some time of feeling devastated, she asked me to come and help move out his things. We were at this all afternoon, and it was not particularly difficult for her. Something was up. When we had emptied the closests and filled all the boxes, she said, “That’s it, thanks.” I wasn’t about to leave – this was it, we were on the brink of something. She could have called anybody to help fill boxes. I knew she called me for something more.
We looked eye to eye – it was the moment of truth. It was a turning point. She ran into the bedroom and tore the sheets off the bed and fell into them crying.
And then I found out. Although she is normally a fastidious person and it had been several months since her husband left, she had not changed the sheets. They were her last intimate link with him. And now she was willing to accept that he was gone.
It was her page 45. A point of growth. He left at page 30; she spent fifteen pages in denial, anger, and despair, and now she was ready for acceptance.
Find that moment for your character. Don’t stop short; don’t stop at emptying closets and filling boxes. Find the outer action that illustrates symbolically the inner growth. Let’s see a human being change.
Okay, that’s all your head needs to know about it.
Take a deep breath. Write what’s playing on pages 30-45.
Let’s see your character grow.
©Andrea Nicola Dodgson, 1971.