This week, in my NYU class, we worked on using the four Magic Questions of Screenwriting to complete an outline for the feature film each of them is writing. The way this process works is that you look at what you have written for Act I, analyze the Three Levels of Conflict that you have created, and then to decide what the outcome for each will be. That’s how you can design Act III with ease.
A discussion of The Three Levels of Conflict can be found in my book, How to Write a Screenplay in 10 Weeks. Briefly, The Inner Level of Conflict is about the emotional reasons why your character has not been able to achieve the goal. The Outer Level of Conflict is your plot. The Societal Level of Conflict is the context in which your story is told. For example, in the film, The Godfather, the Inner Level of Conflict is how Michael wants to please his father, and to live independently that drives the story. The plot, wherein Michael must save his father’s life by killing other people creates the basis for this inner conflict to be expressed. The Societal Level of Conflict is about how his father is a criminal and the conflict here is whether or not Michael should become a criminal to save the family.
In Act 1 of The Godfather, Michael abandons his current life to defend his father and kills two men. In Act 3, Michael takes over his father’s role, and massacres his father’s enemies.
He has resolved his Inner Level of Conflict and the Societal Level of Conflict by choosing his father’s life, and the plot supports this.
To recap, using the 4MQS and The Three Levels of Conflict can help you easily design your third act with ease.
I want to congratulate my student, Chery Manning for completing her screenplay. She deserves a medal for this Herculean task. Not only did she adapt it from her book, she raised kids, had two jobs and took care of her parents.
There are a few places left in my upcoming class, Episode Boot Camp: Write Your Half-Hour TV Pilot in Six Weeks. Please feel free to email me if you have questions about the class.
Here’s to your successful writing,
Professor Marilyn Horowitz