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  • Screenwriting As Sex – The Second Act – Foreplay At Its Best

    December 1st, 2014

    By Danny Manus

    Last we left off, you were trying to get laid and made it past the inciting incident, got asked back to her apartment (or you asked him back to your apartment), and while making yourself comfortable and beginning your mission, the first major turning point in your courtship reared its ugly head – she’s got a live-in boyfriend who’s supposedly away for the weekend. But you decide to forge ahead anyway into heavy foreplay – welcome to your Second Act.

    Your Second Act is about progressing your story forward and keeping the audience – or the person you’re with – invested and engaged as you and your character make your way through unforeseen obstacles on your way to the promise land.

    This is where many lesser men (and writers) falter and fail. You (and your character) may be deterred, distracted and even in some way defeated – but you keep going and try to build that momentum and pressure until you just can’t take it anymore.

    As Chris Vogler says, it’s about your “Approach” and the “Ordeal” you need to go through to claim the “Reward.” Ding!

    Without momentum, your second act will stall. And if you can’t build momentum, you allow too many moments where your partner could change her mind and ask you to leave. And the last thing you want when getting it on – is a bathroom moment.  How do you keep momentum? Your scenes (or your movements) need to seamlessly flow into one another. There should be a give and take between your protagonist and antagonist – and between you and your partner.

    This is also where your B Story may be introduced. And throughout your Second Act, you need to come back to this B Story and interweave it through your “A” Storyline so that it pays off in the end.  Perhaps you’re texting your best friend this whole time letting him know what’s up and he’s giving you advice on how not to fuck it up (not that I’ve ever done this). And in the words of the late structure guru Blake Snyder – pgs 30-55 or so is where you have your “fun and games.” So whip out the naked Twister!

    This Second Act is about creating a lot of action – not just talk. Amen, brother! Talking is for the first act – now it’s time for the good stuff! This can’t just be a personal, private journey (unless you’re alone) – but you and your character take the next steps in your arc to reach your objective. And we all know what that is…

    In the first part of your Second Act, your character usually confronts or reveals his worst nightmare – like maybe realizing that chick you’re mackin’ it with has an Adam’s apple.

    But it’s also about courting (compliment her even if you don’t mean it), preparing (breath mint, hand lotion, condom – check, check, check!), complications (like those damn button fly jeans and unfortunate lighting), and going through some sort of test or obstacle (like her saying “this isn’t just a one-night stand, is it?).  And since we all know that half of what a woman says is in what she DOESN’T say, you must use and understand subtext!

    I think Chris Vogler, author of The Writer’s Journey, proves my point about how connected screenwriting structure is with sex as he uses terms to describe the second act like “temptation, synchronicity, discomfort, threshold guardians (you mean, like Trojans?), and the Secret Door” – and we ALLLL know what the Secret Door is!

    Okay, so you’ve reached the midpoint – you’ve past second base and you’re heading towards third. You’re halfway to the big finish. The point of no return. But your midpoint better be exciting and you better show your partner – I mean, your reader – that you know what you’re doing because if you can’t keep their attention here at the midpoint, they might doze off before you reach your climax.

    This midpoint is where the stakes are increased. Physical, emotional, mental – it all gets kicked into high gear. And another wrench is thrown into the mix – maybe she starts to get cold feet.

    At your midpoint, your hands start to make their way south and the pressure mounts. You – and your character – plan your next move. But don’t forget – your B story is also developing – and the bad guys are coming. Maybe that out of town boyfriend isn’t so much out of town.

    Structure guru Marilyn Horowitz says the second half of the Second Act is about what your characters would die for. And every guy in the world knows that if we have to go, we want to go while getting lucky. That IS what we’d die for. So you disregard any red flags or warning signs and you forge ahead.

    Then you need a twist. Something special. I suggest going counterclockwise. Maybe she brings out the handcuffs and blindfolds – twist! Don’t go too far with the twist though just yet – you want a game changer that increases the physical and emotional stakes, but it still needs to be the same game.

    At the third turning point – as you break into your third act – something big happens. Perhaps you (and your hero) find yourself in a moral dilemma (like maybe you realize you’re both pretty wasted). Or perhaps she turns the tables and takes over. Either way…you overcome it.

    Then – as Vogler himself says – it’s time to “Approach the Inmost Cave.”

    Indeed….

    And at this point, you can see your reward – it’s within your sights. So you “seize your sword” and go for it. And through whatever darkness or hairy situations you might encounter, or whatever low point you might reach as you go down into the abyss – you and your character must put an end to your foreplay and persist into your Third Act.

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