From this moment on, the protagonist is in hunt mode. He has figured out how to stop reacting to whatever it is that the villain is dishing out. He’s figured out the what, so now, he needs to figure out the how. This is also where the antagonist starts winning a bit. Since the beginning of the story, our hero has been trying to gain his footing. That’s actually given the villain a bit of time to gain traction is what he is trying to accomplish. The difference is, now he’s winning. He’s even starting to relish in his victories while the protagonist is just getting started.
Villains aren’t the stupid, self-centered morons we like them to be. They are practical, supremely intelligent, albeit a bit self-centered and most of all…dangerous. This is what makes the story exciting. Imagine if Goober was the actual villain in the movie, Meet the Robinsons. He really wasn’t a mastermind of anything. He was pretty much a dumb puppet of Doris. Doris was the true villain of the movie. She was smart and had a plan which included her being the leader of the world. That was exciting. I know it’s a bit off-topic for the moment, but bear with me, it makes a point.
From the midpoint to the end, the villain has gained some sort of upper hand with the hero. That means that the hero has to work extra hard to figure out where the chink in the villain’s armor lies. That might take a few chapters to get shown. Where the first part of the Second Act was about the hero learning his trade, the second part is about the villain winning. Oh, and there will be a time when it will seem impossible for the hero to beat him.
Also, during this part of the Second Act, things will start to fall apart for our poor protagonist. His tightly crafted plan will start to unravel, thread by thread until there is a moment when everything false apart. This is the part where the girl will see the guy kissing the other girl even though it was the other girl who forced kissed him. Or where someone misunderstands an action that the hero did from a distance when it was something innocent. Sometimes, there’s a part where the strongest member of the team (not necessarily the protagonist) gets fed up with how the hero has handled things and thinks she knows better.
However you look at it, the protagonist’s world had just come crashing down on his head. There’s nothing left for him to do. All his friends have gone, his mission has failed, he has no choice but to go back to the world he once knew. But…he cannot. He is changed a bit now. He wants to finish the mission. Much more than he had originally anticipated.
At this point, our downtrodden hero has figured out that he really wanted to do the job and feels strange about not doing it. So he ponders his failings. He tries to figure out what went wrong and in doing so, may or may not figure it out on his own. More times that not, he cannot. Sometimes, the answer falls right into his lap. As an example, we can look at Officer Judy Hopps. She solved the crime that saved her job, but it cost her Nick and the rest of the predators of Zootopia. She felt so bad that she quit the police force of her of free will despite being a hero. It wasn’t until Gideon Fox called the blue flowers Nightcrawlers that Judy figured out the reason the predators were going savage.
Having figured out the key to solving his dilemma, he attempts to gather his former team by apologizing and even a bit of groveling. With his team–or most of it, at least–back, he can now move into the last part of the story, Act III.
In the next article, I will focus on Act III. As always, thanks for reading and remember to send comments or questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will do my best to answer them…remember I still consider myself a beginner learning this craft.