Photo via Go Into the Story.
Many a spec script hits page 20 at a dead run, then pulls a hamstring and limps all the way through the second act while the writer chips away at what the story is actually about. It’s painfully slow to read.
All of that should be resolved in rewrites, with the thinking-out-loud scenes repurposed into drama.
The first step in organizing the second act is to add a prepositional phrase to the protag’s decision. The first draft protag says, “I’m going to win him back!” and the second draft protag says, “I’m going to win him back by getting into Harvard Law!”
- Concrete goal. At the beginning of act two, the reader feels confident in the story if they are following a protag uniquely unsuited to the specific task at hand. Elle Woods is uniquely unsuited to get into Harvard Law because she appears to be a superficial bubblehead.
- Shifting goal. Somewhere in the middle, the goalposts move further away, and shift from the want to the need. Elle wanted her boyfriend back, but she needs to take her education seriously to get a valuable internship.
- Into the back of the net. At the end of the drive, the protag has the ball on her foot, and she’s facing the meanest, biggest, most talented goalie in the world. At the beginning, she would never in a million years have even gotten onto this field. And then she shoots.
Stakes and pacing sprout like weeds out of that one little prepositional phrase.
Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.
This one is for mynamesdrstuff, who asked how to write a classist character.
- Classist characters don’t have to be mean. As in, they don’t have to be willfully malicious about their classism. Classism is a systemic form of prejudice in which both individuals and the society/system at large treat people differently based on their class or perceived class. A person does not have to be cackling and twirling a handlebar mustache while kicking orphans in order to achieve this. They can, in fact, be perfectly cordial with a world of sympathy in their eyes while telling the homeless man that they won’t hire him because he’s probably a drunk. They can even smile while offering pay for rehab. If they make the assumption that homeless = drunk without any proof beyond their own suppositions, they’re still classist. So the first step to writing a classist character is to accept that a whole range of actions from well-meaning to mean-spirited fall under the classist banner. Understand that you need to write your classist character as having motivations that span that range. (Or, at least, a human-sized portion of it.) Displaying classist characters too narrowly (especially if you’re narrowed in on the evil end) means that readers are going to get a warped vision of what classism is. We need to see classists as squishy and human, not in an attempt to forgive/absolve them, but because squishy human problems need squishy human solutions. Coming at things from a cartoon villain angle just compounds the issue.