This week, you’re rewriting through approximately one-third of your Third Act. Many things are happening to your heroine at once by this point in the story. As a result of her surrender, she’s re-framed her relationship to the meaning she attached to her goal, and in doing so she’s becoming aware of the reality of her situation. The reality is the bedrock understanding of what she is actually dealing with. The smoke has cleared and oftentimes the heroine understands that to attack the problem head on is fruitless. She can’t vanquish her antagonists through force of will. She has to accept that what she’s dealing with is mightier than she is.
By accepting the reality of her situation, your heroine is humbled and, paradoxically, through this experience she also glimpses new possibilities. In Act Three, she begins to understand what her situation means. Meaning is what story-telling is all about.
When you read books or watch movies, you are seeking meaning. You may think that you’re just following the plot, but the purpose of the plot is simply to maintain verisimilitude. You’ll buy without question whatever is set up — wizards, vampires, or a magical world down a rabbit hole — but once the rules of the world have been established, they can’t be broken. If your story goes off in a direction that isn’t germane to the theme, the reader will sense it instantly. The challenge of Act Three is to remain true to the world that you’ve set up by continually returning to your story’s underlying meaning.
Consider why you reread a book or watch a movie for a second time. Since you already know what happens, are you revisiting the story for its plot, or are you seeking to re-experience it? Is it possible that on some level the story’s meaning changes each time you revisit it? How can a book or a film offer you a different experience when the writer hasn’t changed a word and the filmmaker hasn’t altered a single frame? Is it perhaps because you have changed? Every time you read a book or see a movie, you bring with you the sum total of who you are in that moment to that experience of the book. Sure, your 12-year-old self read it once upon a time. But the you that you’ve since become hasn’t read it yet.
In other words, your perception of a situation is altered based upon who you are in the moment. In Act Three, your heroine reframes her relationship to her struggle based upon who she has become as the result of her struggles in Act Two. Her perspective has widened and she’s now seeing her situation in a new way.
In rewriting Act Three, you become the wise man or woman on the hill. In recognizing the impossibility of solving her problem, your heroine becomes willing to face what she was previously avoiding, and in doing so, her relationship to her goal changes.
Ask yourself these questions as you work through the rewrite at this point:
- What possible revelation does your heroine experience at this point in the story?
- How does this revelation alter her perception of her situation?
- What has your heroine been avoiding that she is now willing to confront as the result of this revelation?
- What does your heroine understand about her goal now that she didn’t understand at the beginning?
- How does this understanding cause her to take action?
- How has this understanding altered her relationships to the antagonists?
For an example of how I handled the challenges presented by this stage of the rewrite in The Romance of Eowain, check out Chapters 14 and 15 on Wattpad for free.