Act Two is the middle chunk of the story. It’s a good half of the story and character arc. We’ll talk about the first half of Act Two — up to the Midpoint turn — this week, and the second half next week.
As you read in the post about Act One (you did read it, right? No problem. I’ll wait. No rush. I just poured a fresh whiskey), the setup and status quo in Act One is ruptured by the First Plot Point, throwing our hero into a status that is distinctly not quo.
Think about how you would react. And that’s the key word: React. Out hero is in response mode, reacting to the event (the First Plot Point), that threw him into the mess he’s currently in. Look at Liar, Liar. Act One ends when Jim Carrey’s character, Fletcher Reede, discovers in the most embarrassing and painful way possible that he can’t lie. His appearance in court the next morning (which appears to be Jim Carrey vamping and the editors taking the “best” bits) is a complete and utter disaster, from a lawyer’s point of view. He can’t lie. And he can’t win unless he does.
Then the office. A parade of abusive (and truthful) one-liners, culminating in a battle with a “royal blue pen”. He has, at this point, no idea why this is happening to him. He’s wandering through the minefield of “not lying” and it’s killing him. It’s 100% reaction to the situation that’s been forced upon him.
Somewhere between the First Plot Point (end of Act One/start of Act Two) and the Midpoint is a Pinch Point. The PPs are used to let the reader and (sometimes) the hero know the magnitude of trouble they’re up against. If your story is crime fiction, this is a good point to show how bad the villain can be.
In Liar, Liar the villain/antagonist is the truth. Or rather, Fletcher’s inability to lie. And at the point where you’d expect to see a Pinch Point, one occurs. Fletcher runs a light and when pulled over by the motorcycle cop and is asked “Do you know why I pulled you over”, responds with:
Fletcher: Here goes: I sped. I followed too closely. I ran a stop sign. I almost hit a Chevy. I sped some more. I failed to yield at a crosswalk. I changed lanes at the intersection. I changed lanes without signaling while running a red light and *speeding*!
Cop: Is that all?
Fletcher: No… I have unpaid parking tickets. Be gentle.
The end of the first half of Act Two is the Midpoint, the part of the story where new evidence is revealed that changes the story for our hero.
The Midpoint of Liar, Liar is when Fletcher discovers that the source of his inability to lie is the wish his son made at the birthday party Fletcher missed. Of course he then reveals to his PA, Greta (the awesome Anne Haney) that he was incapable of lying (and the partner, Miranda, overhears and tries to exploit it). Until this point, he has no idea why it’s happening. Now he knows, and he transitions to Attack mode — the second half of Act Two, which we’ll talk about next week.