Time now for a very, very important question every writer needs to face:
Do you know how your story ends?
You come up with an idea, then proceeded to develop, shape, and organize all the stuff that happens in the middle, which eventually has led us to the where we find ourselves now: the big payoff. What the whole thing’s been about.
Everything your characters have been doing have been leading up to this. In theory, your first two acts have been about the protagonist’s world undergoing some drastic changes, how they dealt with it and now it looks like the bad guy’s going to win.
Which brings us to the grand finale that is Act Three, where our hero must somehow find a way to overcome these seemingly insurmountable odds, defeat the antagonist and hopefully come out of the experience a different person than the one they were way back when we first met them.
That being said, there’s still more to it.
-Your protagonist has a physical goal (what they want) and an emotional one (what they need). They can achieve both, just one or neither. Which applies to yours, and have you effectively steered the action to ensure that result? Can we see the changes they’ve undergone?
-Working with a subplot or three? If they haven’t wrapped up by now, better make sure to do it soon. Do you really want the reader to wonder “Hey! What happened to the part about ____?”
-Even a supporting character needs an arc to complete. Have you given each of them enough attention throughout the story to make this happen, and does their story wrap up in a convincingly believable way?
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about putting a story together is that the central question (“Will the hero achieve their goal?”) is raised with the inciting incident around page 10, and each subsequent plot point raises it again, albeit with the stakes a little higher each time.
What happens in Act Three is where you show us how the central question is answered.
-And now, the much-heralded return of Movie of the Moment! This time, a way overdue look at GODZILLA (2014).
Wow. Everything PACIFIC RIM should have been. Instead of non-stop giant monster action, we get only glimpses as the focus is directed at the human aspect of the story. A much more effective approach.
While it’s not hard to suspend disbelief when it comes to a movie about giant monsters rampaging/duking it out in the downtown area of the city where I live, perhaps the most amazing piece of cinematic fiction (as observed by both K and myself) was in the background of one scene where a garage sign read “All-day parking $15”.
Now that’s make-believe.