One of the biggest problems of writing any story is finishing the middle. It’s easy to come up with an interesting beginning and a gripping ending. The hardest part is making the middle as exciting as the beginning and the end.
The way to structure the middle is to focus on the Symbol of Hope. Around the 15 minute mark in Act I, the villain introduces the Symbol of Hope into the hero’s life, which gives the hero a path to follow so he or she can achieve an initial dream.
The beginning of Act IIa is where the hero leaps into a new world by pursuing this Symbol of Hope. The end of Act IIa concludes when the hero achieves a False Victory, which achieves a physical aspect of the Symbol of Hope but fails to deal with the villain in any way.
The beginning of Act IIb is where the villain threatens the Symbol of Hope and the hero ultimately succeeds in protecting the Symbol of Hope by the end of Act IIb.
Act III is where the villain is on the verge of success where that success threatens to destroy the Symbol of Hope once and for all.
The basic structure for the Symbol of Hope thread looks like this:
- Act I — The villain introduces the Symbol of Hope into the hero’s life.
- Act IIa — The hero pursues the Symbol of Hope into a new world and achieves a False Victory.
- Act IIb — The hero protects the Symbol of Hope from the villain.
- Act III — The hero saves the Symbol of Hope by defeating the villain.
In “Star Wars,” the thread of the Symbol of Hope looks like this:
- Act I — Darth Vader forces R2D2 to land on Luke’s planet where Luke eventually sees his Symbol of Hope, which is Princess Leia in the hologram.
- Act IIa — Luke decides to follow Obi-wan and take R2D2 to Princess Leia’s planet.
- Act IIb — Luke rescues Princess Leia from the Death Star.
- Act III — Luke blows up the Death Star before it can kill Princess Leia on the rebel base.
In “Captain Fantastic,” a man tries to raise his multiple children in the wilderness so the thread of the Symbol of Hope looks like this:
- Act I — The hero’s wife kills herself but her funeral will be held in her hometown.
- Act IIa — The hero takes his children to the funeral so they can see their mother for the last time.
- Act IIb — The villain buries the mother in a cemetery, against her wishes.
- Act III — The hero retrieves the mother’s body and gives her the burial she requested.
In “WALL-E,” the thread of the Symbol of Hope looks like this:
- Act I — WALL-E discovers a plant.
- Act IIa — WALL-E pursues Eve, who has taken the plant.
- Act IIb — WALL-E rescues the plant from destruction but is nearly destroyed in the process.
- Act III — WALL-E saves the plant, which helps the human race return back to Earth.
So structure your screenplay in four acts where you introduce a Symbol of Hope, have the hero pursue it, have the villain threaten it, and then have the hero defeat the villain to keep the Symbol of Hope safe forever more. This thread of the Symbol of Hope can help you crate a middle that’s relevant to your story.