Creative Writing Project: Write Act 2 | Dani and Steve Alcorn | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Three Act Structure


    • 3.

      Act 2 Checkpoints


    • 4.

      Project: Create Your Second Act


    • 5.

      Next Steps


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About This Class

The Creative Writing Project series helps you complete a novel, short story or screenplay. Each class focuses on a specific step in the creative process, from brainstorming to publication. The goal is to get you published!

This class shows you how to write your second act, beginning with your character in crisis, navigating the long struggle they face against every increasing plot difficulties, and finally bringing them to an epiphany. When you complete this class you will have a detailed, written plan for the second act of your Creative Writing Project.

The classes in this series include:

  • Creative Writing Project: Brainstorm Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Character
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 1
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 2
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 3
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure a Scene
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Setting
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Great Dialogue
  • Creative Writing Project: Energize Your Manuscript
  • Creative Writing Project: Publish Your Book
  • Creative Writing Project: Market Your Book

Meet Your Teacher

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Dani and Steve Alcorn

Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors


Steve Alcorn is the author of many novels and non-fiction books. His publications include mysteries, young adult novels, a romance novel, children's books, history and non-fiction about theme park design, and the writer's guide How to Fix Your Novel.

Dani Alcorn is the Chief Operating Officer of Writing Academy, a writing instructor, and author of Young Adult fiction, screenplays, and a screenwriting handbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northwestern University, where she majored in Psychology and Radio, Television, & Film.

Steve and Dani have helped more than 50,000 aspiring authors structure their novels. Many of their students are now published authors.

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to the creative writing project. I'm Steve Alcorn, your instructor and mentor. These classes air all about projects. They're all about creating your own original novel, short story or screenplay step by Step one project at a time. The ultimate goal of this course is by the time you've completed these projects, you'll be ready to publish. I'm the author of a number of novels, travel books, Children's books, nonfiction books about the theme park industry and the book How to Fix Your Novel, which tells you all about the techniques you'll use to structure and create your own original work of fiction. It's techniques that will draw upon throughout this class in order to achieve your ultimate goal of getting into print. So let's get started. The creative writing project. This lesson is about writing Act to. This is an overview, an introduction to what's in your act, too. We'll begin with some key concepts reviewing the three act structure, and then we'll look at what the Act two checkpoints are to make sure that you understand how to get your protagonist from the beginning to the end of this important act in the project section you'll have an opportunity to structure your own act to and finally, in the last lesson, I'll show you some next steps to further your writing career, so let's get started. 2. Three Act Structure: welcome to act, too. Here's just a quick overview of the contents of Act two. If you haven't already listened to my Act one class and done the Act One project, I'd encourage you to do that before doing Act to. But if you have that, here's just a review of where we are. You've now gotten to the end of Act one. You've moved through your hook, backstory and trigger checkpoints, and we're now ready to look at Act two. And as you can see, Act Two is a spot where there's constantly ratcheting up action and tension. Throughout the act. We begin with your character in crisis, and we end with their epiphany. But the long middle of the act is almost entirely made up of the struggle, and this is mostly plot oriented. It's a series of setbacks, of ever deepening scope that creep the tension up and up as your protagonist struggles against gold because they have not yet changed. So the checkpoints that we're dealing with for this act or the crisis, the struggle and the epiphany. And now in the next lesson, let's take a look at exactly how to put together your crisis struggle and epiphany. I'll see you there 3. Act 2 Checkpoints: Act two is the difficulty act too, right? It seems counterintuitive, but it's easy to get involved in Act one because we have the enthusiasm of a new project, and it's easy to imagine how things get wrapped up in Act three. But Act two is a little tougher because we have to keep your readers attention throughout the act, even though the protagonist is not changing, which can be frustrating because they start the act overcome by their flaw. And their flaw continues to impede them throughout all of Act two until the very end. And sometimes you just want to slap the protagonists and say, Come on, wake up, you need to change. So it's a struggle to write the struggle, but we begin with the protagonist in crisis. Some sharp event has happened in the trigger that ended Act one and has caused the protagonist to be overcome by their flaw. Regardless of what that flaw was, and you picked that back in the character lessen. The protagonist is not effective because of that flaw, and in fact will not remain effective throughout because of that. Then there's the struggle, and this is the difficult part because it's mostly plot, and we need to keep it interesting. And then finally, there's the epiphany where the protagonist finally realizes, Oh, I need to change. I need to overcome this flaw and behave differently, and then they can solve their problem in Act three. So let's take a look in detail at each of these checkpoints, beginning with the crisis. The crisis is just an internal moment. There's no plot in it. Remember, our definition of plot is physical. Story is emotional. Well, the crisis is that emotional moment of story, when the protagonist is overcome by their lack of self confidence by their lack of self worth, by their inability to face the past by their stubbornness, whatever it is, whatever that flaw is, this is where they're overcome by it, and as a result, they are ineffective. But it's important that they don't yet realize what's wrong with them if they immediately realize, Oh, I'm being overcome by my lack of self confidence that then will be really frustrated with them throughout all of Act two for not changing. If you realize you need to have more confidence, have more confidence. But if you don't realize it then we can sympathize because we've all been in that situation . The emotions of the crisis carry on through all of act two. So if the protagonist enters this crisis with a lack of self confidence, for example, they're going to lack self confidence throughout all of that struggle until they finally are resolved in the epiphany at the end of the act. So now we get to the struggle, and what you have to do to keep ramping up the action is to keep upping. The stakes keep making it more and more catastrophic that the protagonist is failing. And as you go along, this is a good spot to give the protagonist a cause greater than herself. Remember how we talked about building sympathy in the character lesson about how, if the protagonist as a cause greater than herself, then the readers will sympathize? Whether this is this is when she should discover that cause when she starts setting aside her own initial goal, which may or may not ever be achieved, but makes sure that she does something that can benefit some others as she moves along that will keep us interested in her, even as she doesn't change throughout the act. This is also usually a good spot for the antagonised to appear, although in some stories the antagonised appears very early on in some stories, the antagonised is not revealed until the climax a mystery, for example, although the antagonised might have been on stage and unknown as the antagonised prior to that. But this is usually a good spot in the struggle for the antagonist to appear, even if the antagonist doesn't appear here. It is the actions of the antagonised that air, causing all those setbacks and causing the stakes to get higher and higher. The struggle is essentially a serious of plot complications. Things just progressively get worse all the way through the struggle. If they don't get worse, things are probably going to well to hold reader's interest. And then the end of the struggle is a great spot. For the black moment he may have read about. The black moment is a literary technique. It's when things seem absolutely impossible. They can't possibly get any worse. The protagonist is about to give up all hope, and then something happens. Some little glimmer happens that causes them instead to have an epiphany and the epiphany is the escape from the mire of Act two. The epiphany is that moment, that internal moment, that story moment with no plot in it, where the protagonist finally realizes what we as readers have known all along what her flow is, she finally says, Wow, I need to have confidence in myself or I'm not going to get anywhere. And it is only through that change that she can then make a plan to move into Act three. And so it's not just deciding to change what she's doing that's important in the epiphany. That's more the plan. The change that she has to make is in herself. So the realization is a self realization. It's a realization specifically about her flaw, and almost the epiphany could be written from the moment you designed the character. Because if you wrote down that the characters flaw is a lack of self confidence, the epiphany was already written. The epiphany is she realizes she has lacked self confidence and must change. Justus, you already wrote the crisis, which was she's overcome by lack of self confidence. So those two checkpoints are so easy that it means that the struggle of writing Act two is writing the struggle. So if your story is a tragedy, there's one other little twist to this. And that is that none of those things happen in the Epiphany. Either. The protagonist doesn't recognize her flaw or she's unable to change, and as a result things will go very wrong in Act three. For the most part, readers don't like tragedies. Some literary fiction contains tragedy, and sometimes literary fiction contains unhappy endings. Even if it wasn't a tragedy, so it's important to recognize the difference. Unhappy ending is when something bad happens in the end, that the protagonist had no control over and couldn't have anticipated. And that's just annoying. But it is a common literary fiction technique, however, that doesn't have anything to do with whether the story is a tragedy. A tragedy is where the protagonist does not recognize or overcome their flaw in the epiphany, and that leads to bad results so you can have good results if they overcome their flaw and then have the hand of doom come down arbitrarily and snuff him out. But that's not very fair to readers, so you pretty much determine whether your story is going to be a tragedy or not by what happens here in the epiphany. And so just remember, the epiphany is not plot. It's an internal moment, and the plot will happen next as we move into Act three. So now join me in the next lesson for the project when you'll structure your own act. Two, I'll see you there. 4. Project: Create Your Second Act: Now it's your turn to create your own second act. What I'd like you to do is open a document and into that document, I'd like you to type in the act. Two checkpoints as headings entered the crisis struggle and the epiphany now between each of those headings, right? A single sentence that describes that checkpoint draw upon the things that you learned in the previous lesson in order to describe the checkpoints contents but don't get into too much detail. Don't put in a lot of plot details at this point. They'll just be in the way later on. Now, once you've created those checkpoint descriptions, I want you to turn that into a list in Bullet Point form. In between each one of those headings, Trevi uses few words as you can and still remember what that scene is about. But just put in every scene you can think of that you're going to need, and there's going to be a lot of thumb in the struggle section. Remember that the crisis and the epiphany pretty much wrote themselves. They're just won a single brief moment where in the crisis, the protagonist has overcome buyer flaw and in the epiphany. She realizes it and decides to change, so you only need a few words for each of those. But the struggle is going to need a lot of scenes. In fact, a novel might have a couple 100 scenes in it, and many of those, maybe in the struggle. If you can come up with 25 to 50 at this point, you're probably doing quite well. You'll think of Maura's. You go ahead and write, and you'll be able to update this document. But for starters, 50 scenes is certainly a reasonable length struggle to get the characters from Point A to Point B. If 50 sounds a lot for a novel, remember that the scenes might be relatively short and that a scene might be repeated many times. If the protagonist is not accomplishing their goal, it might try to do something one way, then another way, then another way. And in fact, none of them are really working, which is why the tension is ramping up and they won't be able to do anything really effective until Act three. So once you've completed that, you'll have a good framework for writing your manuscript and as you write it, I'd like you to write the scenes right in between those seen markers that you've created. However, don't start writing your manuscript quite yet. Let's proceed on and let's finish structuring Act three, because changes there may affect what you've done before. And then let's take a look at the internal structure of scenes. Once you've done those two courses, then you'll be ready to write your manuscript. So good luck working out, Act to and I'll see you for Act three. 5. Next Steps: thanks for joining me on this journey. I've enjoyed it and I hope you have to. Thing is one of a dozen different projects that are available through this series, of course, is if you follow all of these projects from brainstorming all the way to marketing, you'll be able to bring your idea for a novel, short story or screenplay to reality, step by step and project by project. In the meantime, I hope you'll follow us on Facebook and be sure to sign up for free writing tips. I look forward to seeing you there. Until then, happy writing.