Twist Your Story in the Middle

For many writers, Act II is the longest and hardest part to write. However, one trick is to break Act II into two equal halves so in a 120-minute movie, each Act takes up roughly 30 minutes such as:

  • Act I – 0-30 minutes
  • Act IIa – 30-60 minutes
  • Act IIb – 60-90 minutes
  • Act III – 90-120 minutes

By dividing Act II in half, you make the screenplay easier to write. A second and far more important idea is to make sure the middle of Act II (the end of Act IIa and the beginning of Act IIb) has a twist. This twist often reveals more of the villain’s goal and/or heightens the hero’s problems.

In “10 Clover Field Lane,” a woman wakes up to find herself in an underground shelter with two men who claim a disaster has occurred outside and they actually saved her. Not believing them, this woman plots to get the key to the outside door so she can escape, but when she’s about to escape and open the door in the middle of the story, she comes face to face with a stranger woman desperately trying to get into her shelter. That’s when the woman realizes the two men were actually telling the truth and a global disaster did occur outside.

In “Die Hard,” the hero’s big goal in the first half of the movie is to contact the police, which he finally does by the middle of the story when he tosses the dead terrorist on to the hood of a police car that’s about to drive away. That alerts the police about the terrorists in the skyscraper.

However, the story twists when the police do show up and the hero winds up having to save them from the terrorists instead of the other way around. Even worse, the police think the hero is one of the terrorists and they start making the hero’s life even harder.

In “WALL-E,” WALL-E struggles to reunite with Eve, who he loves. Unfortunately by the middle of the story when WALL-E finally does reunite with Eve, she tells WALL-E he doesn’t belong on the starship and needs to go back to Earth. After all that struggle to stay with Eve, WALL-E’s dream now looks like it’s gone for good.

The middle of your story needs to twist your story in another direction and the whole purpose of Act IIa is to get the story to this revelation. Then the purpose of Act IIb is to continue the story in this new direction.

Think of the twist in the middle as the target for Act IIa and the driving force for Act IIb. Act IIa leads up to the twist and Act IIb deals with the consequences of this twist.

Make sure your story twists in the middle because it will create a more compelling and satisfying story.

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