Of course, every chapter in your story is important. Chapter one should hook your readers. The middle chapters should enthral, excite, thrill and intrigue your readers. The final chapter should satisfie your reader – well, most of the time.
Sometimes we writers are cruel and will end on a cliffhanger.
Today we are just going to talk about one of those chapters. The most important chapter.
The Beginning of Act 2
Before we talk about why this scene/chapter is so important, let’s talk about its place in your story. In Act 1, you introduced your main character/s and their world. You have given them something that has flipped their world upside down, known as the catalyst.
They have pondered their new situation, debated their next move and have decided to take action.
Perhaps they have decided to save their kingdom from an evil queen? Win back their ex? Take on this unsolvable case? Whatever they have decided to do, this is the point in your story in which your character will enter a new world. A
- It’s the moment in your story that your character first takes real action. They know what they have to do and they have decided to do it.
- Its the moment you break from into a different world (more on this later)
- It gives readers someone/something to root for
Okay, let’s start with point 1.
The catalyst moment has thrown your protagonist’s life off-balance. They have a choice to make. Will they take the action they need for a better life?
Well, yes. Otherwise, you have no story.
They know what they have to do and they are going to do it. Starting from this moment. This is your reader’s first taste of the excitement that is to come. Make it count. Make it enticing.
A Different World
The catalyst moment has changed your protagonist’s life forever.
Harry Potter learns he is a wizard. Katniss Everdeen volunteers for the Hunger Games. Ned Stark is asked to be Hand of the King.
There is no going back. It’s simply not possible.
As such, this is the moment your protagonist breaks from the old world and steps into a new world. They don’t know the terrain of this new world. They will stumble as they navigate this foreign terrain. They will make wrong turns. But that’s okay. They know what they want and they are going to fight for it.
Important to note: It’s essential that Act 2 be entirely different from the world you painted in Act 1 (the life your protagonist had before). It doesn’t have to be physically different – you know, with magic and dragons and such. The new world could be something like a new relationship, a new job, an unexpected friendship, a new persona or a new way of approaching life.
Something to Root For
Readers can forgive a slow start. You have probably read book reviews that said something on the lines of:
“It started slow but when things picked up I was hooked.”
I’m not giving you permission to write a slow/boring Act 1, I’m just saying that many readers will push past a boring first Act. However, a slow start to Act 2 is almost unforgivable. This is because this is the point in the story where your readers need someone/something to root for.
To do this,
Nobody wants to read about a protagonist/hero that doesn’t want to go anywhere or do anything.
Without this distinction, there is no journey. No transformation for your reader to follow. There is only resistance.
And let’s face it, dragging your protagonist through even the most epic of adventures, with talking dragons, hidden treasure, sword fights and political intrigue (I may have subconsciously described The Hobbit) kicking and screaming like a toddler would get annoying very quickly.