ReAct: Act 2 is about reaction
Screenwriting Basics,  Screenwriting Tips,  Story Structure

How To Write A Good Act 2 In Your Screenplay

Hello my fellow screenwriters! In this article I’m going to show you a few tips on how to write Act 2 in your script and what it usually contains.

For building Act 2 I am going to use a combination of 3 different structure models as they are suggested by Syd Field, Joseph Campbell and Blake Snyder. I’m going to show you what main parts to include or steps to take on your second act, so you won’t struggle (not much at least).

You can also watch the relevant video, that I’m going to add in the end of this post.

As we have repeated plenty of times every story is unique and you should treat it as such, so everything we’re saying here are not rules written in stone, they ‘re just guidelines. Therefore, it’s up to you to choose what will work better for your story.

About Act 2

Having said that, let’s talk about Act 2, which is the biggest act according to the 3-act structure model. Usually, it accounts for half (2/4) of the overall story. That’s why, it’s the part of the story where writers may easily suffer writer’s block or not knowing what to do with it, they often start dragging it by throwing in to the hero unnecessary and meaningless obstacles, one after another, just to fill it up.

However, if you think about it, Act 2 is the part of a movie that the audience remembers the most! This is happening because it’s the heart of the story, that’s why it needs a lot of thinking and correct building.
For example, if someone asks you what’s the movie “The Jurassic Park” about? The answer will be that it’s about a scientist visiting a theme-park and discovering cloned live dinosaurs there. That’s what you see in Act 2. Usually you won’t give an answer using information from Act 1, neither Act 3.

The major plot points in Act 2 are:

  1. The midpoint
  2. and the Turning Point II

which we have thoroughly examined in other posts and videos by Scriptwriting tips.

Everyone knows that Act 2 is all about conflict. That’s why, in act 2 things become harder and harder for the protagonists. This is how you build the necessary conflict. (Remember, no conflict, no story). So, in this part of your story you keep throwing obstacles to your protagonists and make their journey towards their goal harder and harder. But knowing that, it’s not enough. Because, you could end up with a series of meaningless obstacles.

How can you build Act 2 in a meaningful organic way?

First thing you do before start writing Act 2 is to decide what your midpoint is going to be. In order to do that, you need to know where your story begins and where it ends. Only if you know the beginning and the end of a story, you can find the middle.

The midpoint divides Act II in two parts, so after deciding, what the Midpoint is, you start building Act 2.

First half

Act 2 starts the moment where the actual journey begins. The moment that the adventure starts. Joseph Campbell says that in the beginning of Act 2, the heroes leave the ordinary world and move to a new, an unknown, an out-of-the-ordinary world or situation. And now, Act 2 begins.


So, what would you do if you visited a new place or if you’ve found yourself in a new, strange situation? Right, you explore it! You’re trying to learn as much information as you can about this place or this situation. That’s what characters usually do in the first half of act two. They are learning the ropes of the “new world” or the “new situation” they find themselves in. They get trained, they find out what are the “rules” of this new place.

Get trained – by CollegeDegrees360

Think of it like this: It is like your characters are “going to school” in this part of the story. They are learning new stuff, that they are going to use later.

Fun and Games

Also in this first part of Act Two, according to Blake Snyder, you give to the audience what you have promised them. It’s the “Fun and Games” part. If you promised a werewolf movie, it is where you learn about werewolves. You see someone transform into a werewolf in the middle of the night, in a full moon. You learn about murders that look like they’ve been done by a wolf or something.


And then comes the midpoint. Something very important usually happens in this moment and the story gets more complicated and the protagonists get to evolve.

However, protagonists must never forget their goal. They pursue it from the first minute, but in the first half of act 2, since they don’t know the “rules” of the new world, a lot of unexpected things are happening to them. Their ignorance of the “rules” makes them mostly re-acting to various events rather than acting themselves.
But from the midpoint, the protagonists usually become more energetic. In the second half of act two, they have learned the ropes of the new “world” or the new “situation” and now there’s less re-acting and more acting. Characters never forget their goal and now, as difficult as it seems, they think they know how to pursue it in this situation.

Suggested Steps in Act 2

Second half

In the second part of act 2, protagonists, again, have some winnings and some losses.
See it this way. Once they solve one thing, another, bigger problem or question pops up in front of them.
However, this time their losses are not for lack of knowledge on how the new “world” works, they learned that in the first half of act 2. Now, it’s usually something more internal, it’s lack of knowing who they really are or what they really need.

I suggest you to come up with some kind of a “roadmap” that your protagonists must follow to reach the end. According to your story, try to think the building blocks, the steps that your protagonists have to take to reach the end. Write them down, all necessary steps. There’s not a rule on how many steps, it depends on your story. There could be 5 or 10 or whatever!

Roadmap for Act 2

Let’s say for example that you have come up with 10 steps that your protagonists have to take in order to reach the end of the story. Then, 9 of them will have to be included in Act 2.
Save the last, the best and the most important step for Act 3.

Bad Guys are Closing in

In the second half of Act 2, your protagonists start losing. The obstacles have grown bigger and more aggressive. Here is where the Bad Guys are Closing in (Bad Guys Close in). There can be actual “bad guys” or the danger. For example, if your protagonists fight with an illness here it gets more aggressive. The danger becomes greater, the adventure gets serious, and the protagonists feels like loosing.

Low Point

And after that, comes the second major turning point of the story, just before act 2 ends. Many times, the second turning point is also a “low point” for your characters. Here, the protagonists either win their goal but then they realise that it hasn’t ended yet and they needed something else or they lose everything and they are left alone and have nothing at all.

At this moment, the heroes learn a new final information or they come to a deep personal realisation. Whichever it is, this new last piece of knowledge is going to help them in Act 3.

Act 3

And this is where act 2 ends, and act 3 begins. In Act 3 a new final “chapter” begins for your protagonists which leads them straight to the end of the story. The protagonists have tried everything and have lost everything and now all they’ve got is themselves.
In act 3 protagonists are going to combine all the knowledge and experience they have acquired from the previous lessons they took during act 2.
But we’re going to discuss about Act 3, in another post and another episode by Scriptwriting tips.

Right now, you can also watch the episode about Act 2 and how to write it.
I hope you enjoy it!

Write to me in the comments, how do you like to write Act 2? Do you have any particular steps or method? I’d love to read it!

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