“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”- Ernest Hemingway
Allow the Protagonist to Feel Reluctance
No one likes change. The unknown is scary.
The end of Act One involves our protagonist making a decision they can’t go back on. There is often reluctance that precedes this decision as they weigh their options. Even if the reluctance lasts but a moment, it’s an important beat in any story. Be curious about this, as it will keep you connected to the tension.
For example: a character might decide to reveal a secret to another character. Just because they want to share their secret doesn’t mean they feel no reluctance in sharing it. This is an irreversible decision. What if the other character betrays them, judges them, or rejects them? The tension, the interplay between “What if I do, and what if I don’t?” will lead to a more specific relationship to the end of the Act One decision.
Our protagonist is always making decisions, always taking action, but the end of Act One has a special meaning. There’s a sense that this decision will irrevocably change things, that the protagonist is leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar.
This decision could be anything: going on a first date, accepting the promotion, moving to Australia, sleeping with someone, taking a stand, voicing a concern, cleaning the garage—anything at all! It’s not so much the action taken, but rather the meaning attached to this action.
Remember, story accumulates meaning as it progresses.
Our protagonist attaches specific meaning to each decision. Reluctance helps the reader understand specifically what our protagonist is struggling with. By inquiring into the reluctance, you may discover a moment that makes your story more dynamic and specific.