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Write Your Novel
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By Melanie Anne Phillips
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~ Step 115 ~

Characters - Act Two Middle

Growth doesn't happen overnight.  It is an ongoing progression.  The second act establishes an initial nature of growth in the beginning, then sets a second point in the middle.  Your readers will use those two points to draw a line and get a sense of the direction of growth.

You have an interesting choice in the middle of act two.  Do you want to tell your reader/audience the truth about your characters, or do you want to mislead them?

Now, it's a golden rule that you absolutely NEVER want to lie to your audience.  Your readers give you their absolute trust, and if you violate it, they will pull away from your story completely.  But, that doesn't mean you can't fib to them once in a while.  The key is to not let them in on the trick too soon!

You've all read stories where a character we initially thought was a good guy says something so that we absolutely know he's really up to no good.  What a cop-out!  From that point forward, any surprise is gone, and all we have left is waiting for the moment the other characters figure it out (though they must be pretty stupid not to have seen it already).

If an author can't keep the secret, he or she shouldn't try in the first place.  Better to just let the bad guys be bad guys, right from the get-go.

Keeping secrets has its own set of problems.  Essentially, you have to have a reasonable explanation for everything that happens, then create a second set of actual reasons for why they happened, once you reveal a character was motivated differently than we thought.

Of course, there's a middle ground between having a character be straight-forward, or turning around 180 degrees.  Usually people grow linearly, or a long a curve.  Or, they stay on course, but outside pressure builds until they snap for better or worse.

So here in the middle of act two, consider that while you need to have your characters grow in some manner to prevent them from stagnating, there are a variety of ways that different characters might grow.

For this step, refer to the material you developed for character growth in act two, plus what you've already assigned to the beginning of act two.  Then describe for each of your characters how you'll create a sense of direction to the growth of your characters, their roles, and relationships in the middle of act two.