Analyzing Act Twos



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  • Analyzing Act Twos

    With any exceptional script you've read recently, can you briefly explain how the second act made good on what it was suppose to accomplish.
    "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
    -Maya Angelou

  • #2
    Re: Analyzing Act Twos

    Stitch in Time by Frank Darabont.

    I understand why it was never produced, but it is a phenomenal read. The second act is executed wonderfully.

    The beginning of the second act shows our character, Stitch, thrust into his new and confusing world (40 years in the future) starting on page 25. In fact, the character's first (hilarious) line in this new world is "Oh great. I'm in Hell." lol.

    He collides with people he used to know by page 27 (sparking both the main plot and the first B story), and the problem is presented. The fun and games are great as he discovers how much everything has changed (spending a bit of time wowed by technology). There's also the "denial of the call" while Stitch refuses to believe he is in the future.

    Page 33 has him meet the love interest, which sparks the second B story (or C story, as it were).

    As he finally accepts his fate, the bottom of page 36 reads "Stitch exits and gazes up, stunned at the impossibly high buildings, seeing this brave new world in the harsh glare of daylight. It's another planet, far removed from Stitch's L.A." The sequence culminates with him being floored by the price of a hot dog and finding the building he supposedly died in filled with neo-nazis listening to thrash music. By page 40 Stitch is fully determined to take on this new world, and solve the problem he was sent there to solve.

    He begins his journey and finds himself perpetually one step behind the bad guys. On page 45 his initial plan is thrown out the window. Literally. Page 47 finds him confronting the major antagonist - the man who killed him 40 years earlier.

    For the next 13 pages, complications ensue with all the story threads (there are four total - the main plot where Stitch tries to take down the antagonist, the love story, the buddy story, and the time travel story). On page 58 we begin to see the pieces of the puzzle. Smart readers will start to pick up on the conspiracy here. Smart readers can also begin to put together other pieces of the puzzle (relating to the secondary stories), if they are paying attention.

    On page 60, the stakes are raised as Stitch makes a b-line for the antagonist. He states "That slime killed my partner. Where I come from that means something." You also have a nice parallel with the B and C stories. As we see him getting closer to the love interest, his relationship with the buddy fractures. Good stuff.

    For the next 6 pages, Stitch is a man on a mission taking out whatever is in his way. On page 67-68, he finally puts together the pieces of the puzzle. 69-72 have the "false victory", followed directly by the victory of the love story.Page 73 has Stitch finally getting the love interest on a date. By page 75 we are slammed with the answer to the mystery in the love story, which changes everything. The very next pages, 76-77 reveal the previous plot victory to be false, and the love interest is kidnapped. Someone can't be trusted!

    78-85 are Stitch and the buddy reconnecting (once again juxtaposing the love story, now that the love interest has been taken from Stitch) and picking up the pieces. Stitch realizes his fate is sealed, has a series of further complications, fails to stop a major disaster (resulting in the DNOTS) and receives the final information he needs to push into act three. All in the course of 12 pages.

    Overall, it's a tight second act. The reason the script was never produced most likely has to do with the repeated shifts in tone and genre. From a marketing standpoint the film would be a nightmare. Too dark and profane for families one minute, too light and silly for the 16-24 market the next. Too sci-fi for the mystery/action fans one minute, too noir for the sci-fi fans the next. Still, it's a great read. I highly recommend it.

    edit: sorry that wasn't brief. I'll try to summarize. The 2nd act fulfilled all of the premise's promises, and gave the reader everything they expected while managing to keep them guessing. It did a hell of a job balancing a number of elements that would never mix in the hands of most writers. Darabont, on the other hand, managed to mix these elements perfectly. As stated, it made the script a no-go for the studios, but it stands as an example of how to handle mixed genres perfectly.
    For more of my thoughts on screenwriting, check out my blog.
    Jonny Atlas Writes!

    - Sic Semper Tyrannis.


    • #3
      Re: Analyzing Act Twos

      I've mentioned this script more than a couple of times, but it really jumps out at me as per this question: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRUTH.

      ********Definitely going to be some spoilers in here**********

      The first act sets up a world in which, as many of you know, human beings never developed a concept of lying; everyone is perpetually honest all of the time. Then a man comes along, life gets him down, and all of a sudden...he figures it out. The first act introduces him, shows how life is beating him silly, and takes him through the process of breaking so that he finally lies.

      But the second act really kicks this one into high gear. At first, he's having a grand time running around and lying to everyone. He tells people at the bank that he had hundreds of thousands of dollars in his account, but lost it due to an error; they replace the money instantly on his word. He tries to explain to his friends the power that he has, but they don't understand - they're just fascinated by all the things that are happening to him. He uses his new ability to woo the woman he wants to date. Best of all, he advances at his job. In the most clever part of the script, he's employed as an "actor" in "films". Except, in a world without lies, there is no "actors" are merely people who are filmed sitting on a stool, reading history back to people who already well know it. That's cool if you have an interesting period, like the Renaissance or the Civil War. It's not so cool if you have The Dark Ages, which our hero does. So he makes up a bunch of sh*t to enhance his era and becomes the most exciting and popular "actor" alive.

      The best sequence in the story comes as he's visiting his dying mother. She's sick and scared as she's on her way out, and all he wants to do is comfort her and make her feel he tells her she's off to a beautiful place where everyone owns a pony and a mansion and sees everyone they ever loved and lives happily ever after; essentially, he invents Heaven. And as his mother dies, the doctors in the room look at him, amazed: how the HELL does he know about this place? It's simple and devastating and beautiful.

      This careens into the third act, where our hero achieves world-wide fame and becomes a messiah due to his knowledge of an afterlife...but finds it impossible to keep up with the demand that comes along with knowing everything the rest of the world doesn't. This is where a second act does exactly what it's supposed to do: advance the character and the story to the point where they're either forced to change course or make a heavy decision (sometimes both). The main character here evolves from being a good person who's using his "gift" for mostly good to a person who's exploiting it to a person who's about to realize just what an awful mess he's created for himself and the rest of the world. And because of him, the world itself has changed. The second act does exactly what we ask of it: it changes our character internally and changes his place in the world in which he exists.

      Too often a second act is merely an empty landmass between the end of Act I and the beginning of Act III. This one neither slows nor stutters nor wastes time, but instead builds continually in the process of getting to our conclusion. Very much worth the read if you can get your hands on it.