Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 184 - Damn Midpoint

Act Two (in a standard format script) is notoriously the hardest. Spanning pages 30-90 (again, in a textbook script), it is not only the longest portion of the screenplay, but also the one that is the hardest to sustain. That is why, here at the league, the Dreaded Act Two is one of our most hated of arch enemies.

Act Two is split into to sections, right down the middle at the midpoint of the script (page 60). That's typically either a crisis point, or a majorly uplifting moment for your protagonist. It is also the point that must compel the next 30 pages into the climax of the entire story. Your character has been working toward a goal for the first half of the script; at this juncture, she either has to redirect, find a new path completely, or finds the inspiration needed to carry her onto the next stage of her journey. What follows - pages 60-70 or 75, can be misery for a writer, as you and your story and protagonist are coming down off of a major adrenaline high yet need to sustain the audience's attention.

Right now, I'm still grappling with the midpoint. I've actually gone through and written the remaining pages of this draft through the final Fade Out, but left the midpoint unaltered. I know it needs work, and I know where the rest of the story goes, but I'm not sure how to achieve what I need in that core section. (And, it's a long section, currently clocking in at about 10 of the now 87 pages I have.) To be honest, this is probably my fault as a writer for not fully fleshing out the needs and arc of my protagonist. I kind of know where he needs to get to and where he's coming from, but the bridge between the two is muddled, since it can go a few directions. I should have been better prepared, but maybe that's what the third draft will bring.

Another interesting development - the script is a love story, and the titular female character, though not the protagonist, is emerging as the one with the greater arc over the course of the story. I don't actually think this is a problem. And don't get me wrong, the male protagonist does undergo a change. But her's is much more visible and multi-tiered at the moment. Again, this could be a product of work that is lacking on my part, but it's an interesting transformation to watch. Maybe in a way, she actually is the protagonist, despite the fact that she's not on screen as much as he is. Either way, I'll solicit feedback before I alter that at all. 

I kind of like the way it's going. Have you ever worked with multiple strong characters, one of which eclipses your protagonist in terms of experience? Can you think of strong examples of movies that do this well?