On Writing

What is the Most Important Part of a Book? Act Two

This is part two in a three-part series. If you have not read part one, please do so here!

So before this became a three-part series, I had originally planned on doing just one post on why the middle part of the book is so important. But, as I got to thinking I realized that a case could be made for each section of the book. 

But why did I first think of the middle? Well, I had just finished Mistborn: The Final Empire (you can read my review here), and the ending was spectacular. As I thought about the book after I set the book down, I thought to myself “Why was that ending so good?” And the answer is pretty simple. Set-up. 

But why does set-up in the middle effect the way your book ends? We’ve all read that one book where the author was building up to a really great climax and then they suddenly did something completely different then what you thought, but the author didn’t foreshadow any of the ending. The ending still might be good, but it’s not as good as it could have been. Endings like this leave you unsatisfied and sometimes can sour the reader’s experience.

Now what I’m not saying is for you to tell your readers exactly what’s going to happen before it happens. That can also leave a reader unsatisfied as there was no surprise in the ending. 

So what does all of this have to do with the middle part of a book? Well, the second act usually does a good bit of foreshadowing. Now there are some exceptions where the ending is set up in the first act and the second act doesn’t do as much foreshadowing. But typically I feel as if there is a good bit of foreshadowing in the second act. 

Along with foreshadowing, the protagonist is usually given a major source of information or motivation in the middle of the second act. This can come as a backstory reveal, or a character seeing something that fuels the flames of their motivation. 

So the second act is essential in that it drastically sets up a satisfying ending for your readers, along with giving the protagonist motivation. Without foreshadowing or character motivation, your third act can be lackluster and not as enjoyable for the reader, even if it is a great ending!

Next week we’ll conclude the three-part series by exploring the final act of the book and why it’s important.

Please comment below with any additional things you have to say! I learn just as much writing these posts as you guys do, so I can easily miss things!

From my pen to your paper, may our swords never clash.

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