Screenwriting : Want advice about Act 2 by Göran Johansson

Göran Johansson

Want advice about Act 2

I am new here.

Please suggest a screenwriting manual which describes how to fill the middle part of the screenplay. Because screenwriting manuals often tell little about this problem. I have read tens of screenwriting manuals. None concentrated on this. Many avoided it.

Partly to sort out my notes from those books, I have writen my own screenwriting manual. Would be about 500 pages if printed as a book. About 150 pages is advice related to how to fill Act 2. I mean, it is clear for me that it is possible to give plenty of advice for this problem. So I expect others to have written whole books about filling Act 2.

And since I have directed 3 long comedies. Yes, I agree that learning by doing functions.

Dan MaxXx

I follow Brian Koppelman's writing theory. Watch movies & study screenplays that inspire you.

Göran Johansson

Dear friends, I apologize for a misunderstandment. Many screenwriting manuals tell what should be in Act 2. The problem is how to find ideas to add obstacles, problems and reversals. Screenwriting manuals are hardly helpful to find such ideas.

Ewan Dunbar

I’d always recommend Joseph Campbell’s book Hero of a Thousand Faces. You can see how your characters will be challenged in the second act in a way that ties in with what you have established and will lead to a satisfying conclusion.

Göran Johansson

Oh dear, I should had expressed myself differently. Because this time I have expressed myself so poorly that I have wasted your time.

Many screenwriting handbooks tell what should be included in Act 2. But how do you find the right ideas to fill the gaps?

So I wrote 250 kilobytes. Largely practical advice.

Imagine this. You have ideas for Act 1 and Act 3. But Act 2 is full of holes. So I wrote the following.

If the problems are small, add details. I include hundreds of small things which makes the screenplay longer.

If the problems are worse, use the characters to fill the holes. I give multiple alternatives.

If the problems are so large that you can't find enough to add, go through the structure because it will make it easier to ask other persons to help.

With my background in the academic research world, I read screenwriting handbooks with a critical eye. I feel that those handbooks don't give very useful advice for this problem.

So I hoped that somebody had written a manual which I had failed to find. Because it is possible to give some practical advice.

No, I don't say that I have found a magic formula that solves all problems. Just that I have collected useful information. So I hoped that somebody else had collected even more.

Christopher Phillips

Göran Johansson I understood your original post since you mentioned putting together your own manual to solve the issue of adding details that most books don't cover. I noticed this problem years ago.

Most of the books at the local Barnes & Noble talk about the basics - general structure and formatting, and then give samples from well known scripts. Some books do list examples of what can go wrong in ACT 2 like being dull or going on tangents, but very few talk about how to apply general story mechanics to a particular genre. I would call a book like this intermediate screenwriting and it would be very useful.

Dan Guardino

Write a four-act screenplay which is a modified three-act screenplay. All you are doing is breaking up the long second act into two acts.

Monet Bradley

William Akers book, “ Your Screenplay Sucks” is a great screenwriting book. While most screenwriting books focus on what to do, he focuses all of the things that we should not do.

Maurice Vaughan

"Many screenwriting handbooks tell what should be included in Act 2. But how do you find the right ideas to fill the gaps?" I suggest brainstorming ideas and scenes for Act 2, Göran Johansson. I make a beat sheet when I outline a feature script, listing the main beats (Opening, Inciting incident, Act 2 Starts, etc.), then I fill the beat sheet with ideas and scenes that happen between the beats.

Ian Milne

Subplots are useful, but I also suggest what Dan mentioned. 4 act structure might make more sense to you in your story design. It does for me. For so long everyone drilled home 3 act structure. Your screenplay needs to be a minimum of 3 acts, but it can be 4, 5, 6, 7 acts. The trick when adding more acts is to outdo the previous act with stakes etc. It needs to keep building, putting more and more pressure on your protagonist, but also not get repetitive.

Christopher Phillips

Göran Johansson perhaps you can give us a brief overview of your manual on writing.

Göran Johansson

Dear Christoher,

Sure I can. About 500 pages practical advice.

Part 1. About 100 pages. Start writing. One can learn screenwriting by doing no-budget filming, by joining a theatre group, etc. Collaborating with others can help a lot. Formating. How to avoid writer's block and instead feel inspiration. Etc.

Part 2. About 150 pages. Fill Act 2.

Part 3. About 100 pages. When the screenplay is long enough, remove the errors.

Part 4. About 100 pages. Sell the screenplay. During the latest month I have realized that the information in handbooks is obsolete, so it would had been better if I had not written this.

Users are supposed to read part 1 before trying to write their first screenplay, and use the other parts when problems appear.

With my background in the academic research world, I have a critical view to advice given by others. So sometimes I disagree with what I have read. And try to improve what others suggest.

A few persons have read, and told me that due to the high information density, my explanations are sometimes too short.

Christopher Phillips

Göran Johansson Do you make any Act 2 comments around genre? It seems that genre stories have a particular flow to them that can be useful for helping to fill in the Act 2 scenes.

Göran Johansson

Dear Christopher, I wrote my manual in such a way that it should be useful no matter what genre. Is that what you mean?

Michael David

Christopher Phillips

Göran Johansson yes. That's helpful.

Göran Johansson

Dear Michael, I have read the second book. I was disappointed. The first book I have not read.

Michael David

Göran Johansson I agree about the second book. The first book is part of the Blue Book series by William Martell. I highly recommend everything he has written and would go so far as to say it is one of the only books a new screenwriter should read.

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