The 3 Things Your Script Misses in Act 2 (And How to Find Them)

Act two is a grind, but if you hit those moments, you’ll find success.

When you’re writing your screenplay, there are a lot of beats you need to try to remember. When you break them down as you go, it might seem a little less complicated.

The three acts are a way of looking at a story that stretches all the way back to ancient Greece, and they inform all sorts of storytelling in film and TV. It was Aristotle’s theory that a drama should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Well, with all that theory, sometimes you miss writing. So I wanted to break down the things that I see people missing, because often it’s the same thing. I even miss those things, so it’s good to see them again for me too.

Today we are going to review the second act. It’s one of the hardest things to write because of all the moving parts. But hopefully, we’ll cover the things most people forget and solve them together.

Let’s go.

The 3 things your script is missing in Act 2

1. Time in the world

One of the most fun things about writing is world building or the time you spend developing the story and where it takes place. Often I’ve read amateur scripts that never build the world in act two. This means that they stay true to the main character and don’t bring complications, situations or anything else.

If the world isn’t constructed, it feels like you’re missing a part of the world that appeals to the audience. We like to explore a place, even if it’s a horror movie. We want to be involved in the world. This is how we understand the rules and the stakes.

2. A midpoint

I can’t stress how important it is to have a clearly delineated midpoint. We need something to punctuate that we’ve reached the middle of the story. A midpoint helps you show the audience that you are in control of the story.

A good midpoint shifts the perspectives of the audience and the characters. Usually this involves the characters having to recalibrate how they are going to follow their plan or life. This kind of change in momentum denotes a well-traced play. When you don’t have a midpoint, your story just keeps moving forward and we don’t get the necessary conflict or an actual problem that forces the characters to rethink.

3. Escalating situations

It’s the thing I struggle with the most. But act two must continue to escalate.

This means that each scene should take your characters deeper and deeper into their problems. We should go deeper into their problems. If there are set pieces, they should get bigger and bigger. Keep building the pressure. Failures must be worse too. These lows should crescendo into your lowest possible three-point act. And the only way to do that is to keep climbing for your character to fall even further.

We will then see the third act. But what other tips do you have for writing the second act?