Building the Tension: Act II

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Building the Tension: Act II

Act II throws rocks at the hero by building the tension and deepening the conflict until the tension reaches a breaking point at the end of the act. The protagonist now has a goal—to get the girl, solve the mystery, save the world. If he achieves his goal without struggle, we have no story. So the writer throws obstacles in the hero's way and develops subplots to complicate his life. By the end of Act II, the hero has his goal in sight and thinks he has the solution. But then the major reversal at the end of Act II turns his solution on its head. The hero is forced to muster even more strength and determination or change his plan, often against a running clock.

In the second act of Thelma and Louise, the girls now have a different goal: to escape to Mexico. Their main obstacle becomes the law. Complications build. They need money. Louise refuses to go through Texas. The law is closing in on them. But finally Louise's boyfriend Jimmy shows up with some cash and it looks like they'll make it—until a hitchhiker Thelma picked up robs them at the Act II turning point.

Act II generally runs from page 25 or 30 to about page 90.



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