The protagonist has moved through Act Two, overcoming obstacles. She has grown, gained experience and wisdom.

For instance, Dorothy’s not the same naïve girl she was when she landed in the Land of Oz. She’s been through a lot.

Carl Fredricksen, when first heading out for Paradise Falls, could never have imagined the adventure he was in for.

The writer should think of the ever-demanding list of obstacles as practice for the protagonist. Act Two is a series of tests. As I’ve mentioned, the obstacles increase in their degree of difficulty, saving the worst for last. 

Learning to drive metaphor

Ready to rock and roll?

You get behind the wheel for the first time.

A parent or instructor sits, nervously, in the passenger’s seat.

You’re told that one pedal is the brake and one is the gas. Perhaps, early on, you confuse the two. Danger!

Or, better yet, it is a manual shift car, meaning it has three pedals. Pedal #3 is just another obstacle, more conflict.

But soon enough you learn to go forward, backward, stop, turn, etc. Each step is an obstacle. You conquer one before moving onto the next.

Then, finally, the instructor guides you to the highway entrance ramp. Let’s just say, for the sake of conflict, it’s the 10 Freeway in Los Angeles. Traffic whips past. There is no break in the action, no opening for you. Everyone’s going 70 mph, which looks like 100.

Up until know, your top speed has been 40.

You hesitate.

Horns honk.

Drivers curse.

Panic. Tension. Conflict!

Which pedal is the break? Which one is the gas? This is life and death (for you and the instructor).

It’s the Ultimate Test.

Palms sweat. Stomach turns. Your passenger prays. More honking and you . . . hit the gas!

God help us all.

By the way…

Some protagonists survive the Ultimate Test and some do not.

The same is true with the protagonist in your script. It’s all practice and preparation, leading up to the biggest test of all. But that’s a lesson for next time.

Ready for the next lesson? Jump over to Lesson 11: Ultimate Test!