By page 45, your hero has reacted to what happened on page 30. He is now different, and we begin to see that here, in a symbolic scene. Also, by page 45 we begin to see a resolution of the original desire your character had on page 10. We’re beginning to see how he’s going to work this out.
Do you remember the children’s story “The Little Engine That Could”? The engine chugs up the steep hill, repeating, “I think I can, I think I can”? Pages 45 to 60 should provide the same build-up. Your character is on his way to the top of the hill. Get him there.
IF THE STORY IS SLIPPING THROUGH YOUR FINGERS, DO THIS
Identify what your hero knows now that he didn’t know in the random draft.
Identify what you know now, as a result of the random draft, that might change your scenes?
Eliminate scenes that repeat.
Change dialogue that tells to actions that show.
If you see lines that tell you “I don’t know what to do,” change them to say “Here’s the plan.” Where you see lines of discussion (“Should we surround the house?”) replace them with action (characters surround the house). Your hero could be scared, that’s okay. He’s still taking action. He is responding to all outside occurrences, not avoiding them.
From page 45, your hero is approaching a point of no return, page 60. So between pages 45 and 60, he might try to go back to see if his old life is there. He finds that it isn’t. from 45 to 60 he is living “empty.” That is, he’s left how it was, but it isn’t yet how it will be. So he’s in between. It’s uncomfortable to live “empty,” so you will be tempted to take him back to what he knew, so he can know again why he left.
Watch to see if you have such scenes. Ask yourself if they legitimately belong in Act II. If you have bogged down today, it’s probably because the “going home” scenes actually belong in Act I, before he leaves home. See if you can spot where the action stops because you’re going back. If you want a “going back home” scene, rewrite to show how your character is different from how he was in Act One. Inner Movie Axiom: Only go back to know to go forward.
On page 60 is where he jumps off into midair. By now, he should have grown out of his old life so he can grow into his new one.
In the recent past of movie making, it seemed that the only jeopardy big enough to scare us was the Mafia or the Russians or more recently, political terrorists.
But look to yourself. Are these real threats in your daily life?
True jeopardy, the interesting kind, is what we wrestle with in ourselves. Life and death. Love and abandonment. Success and failure. All manner of risk and loss. Being somebody, being nobody. When everything a person is and hopes to become is at stake, that makes for a strong sense of jeopardy.
You can find an external enemy for your hero to track and battle, but the real triumph will be his inner achievement.
Even with such a successful character as James Bond, who chases and foils the most powerful archenemies, we are watching the drama of a man who, given seemingly insurmountable obstacles, will not roll over and say, “Forget it. I’d rather give up and die than have to get out of this one.” He is a hero because he’s just not going to stop. So yes, go ahead, create an external enemy, but the real story rests with inner growth.
Look now to see where you put outer jeopardy. Take away the outer jeopardy and put it inside the hero to see what he’s really up against (something in himself). Every time your story is lost, go find your character and put him back into the main action on screen.
THE BLACK HOLE AND HOW TO FILL IT
Symptom: You are somewhere in the morass of Act II and you’ve lost it. There are twelve scenes in search of a story. Your hero is gone. You don’t know where he went. You have scenes that follow minor characters of to Zanzibar.
Give the story back to the main character.
The villain is not the main character, don’t let the villain steal the story.
Here’s a one-minute assignment.
Take a scene from about page 55 that’s missing your main character. Now, throw him into the scene. Have him say.
YOUR HERO: This is my story and I’m taking it back.
Now what happens? Write that scene for one minute. Let him throw out the minor characters and idle action and have him take back the action and move it along.
NOW YOU’RE TALKING.
Somewhere in your one-minute movie is a line of dialogue expressing the commitment of your hero. She’s “mad as hell and not going to take this anymore.” She says, “I’m going to do this, don’t even think of getting in my way.”
Great. These are page-60 commitment lines. Look at the one you just discovered and look at the one you have on page 60. They both say the same thing, but at different levels of intensity.
Give that page-60 commitment line the highest intensity you can.
Okay, punch a pillow. Shadowbox in place. Go the distance. Rewrite pages 45 to 60. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
©Andrea Nicola Dodgson, 1971.