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Write Your Novel
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By Melanie Anne Phillips
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~ Step 116 ~

Characters - Act Two Ending

By the end of act two you will need to have established all the tensions, bonds, and potentials among your characters that will come to be stretched to their limits during act three.

The end of act two should be an uneasy calm before the storm.  It is the time at which everything falls into an uneven truce or dynamic stasis.

By this time, the characters pretty much know where they stand with one another - who's a friend, who's a foe, and who is neutral.

Keep in mind that your readers may see things differently.  While a character may see another as trying to hinder him, that other character might actually be trying to protect him.  At an even deeper level, the character tying to protect him might be misguided and really is hindering him!  From a Zen perspective, first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.

Use the ending of act two, then, not just to create potential among your characters in preparation for act three, but also to create potential between how characters see one another and how your readers see them.

(And if you want to go even deeper, you can mislead your readers so that later in act three, they must re-evaluate characters, roles, and relationships, based on new information that you have revealed.)

Finally, you may wish to use the conclusion of act two to create a split between characters who part ways, neither expecting nor wishing to see each other again (only to bring them together once more by circumstance or necessity at the beginning of act three.)

In the movie, Reign of Fire, for example, the leader of a band of marines and the leader of a group of refugees, have a fistfight at the end of the second act, and part ways as enemies.

But at the beginning of the third act, the marine has come to realize he was wrong, and the refugee leader has come to understand the marine actually had noble motivations.  They establish a tense working relationship, and by the end of the story have come to respect each other.

In this step, describe how character roles and relationships lock into a final dynamic before the stress of the third act.