Monday, January 28, 2013

Breaking Down Story Structure: MORNING GLORY, Act Three

Like Act One, Act Three makes up only 25% of the entire story, but it is also the most quickly paced of the three acts. Everything up to this point has been building speed and now it's about to explode.

When we last saw Becky, she had successfully pulled up Daybreak's ratings from a slump so low the show had been threatened with cancellation. And while this is definitely a good thing she did, it resulted in her getting an offer to be interviewed for the TODAY show--something she has always dreamed of. This is her chance to live her dream, but she just can't bring herself to leave the good things behind that she created. And she doesn't want to leave the people at Daybreak that had become her family, either.

So the break into Act Three strikes when Becky makes a firm decision to stay with Daybreak, and move forward in her career from there.

Only to be immediately shot down by Pomeroy in the very next scene. After their little heart-to-heart during the All Is Lost segment, she is understandably confused by this. But he says, "What? We do one little story together and suddenly I'm your bitch? Don't think so."

And what is he so adamantly refusing? The same thing he has been fighting since the beginning--a cooking segment. No way, no how. Mike Pomeroy doesn't cook on air. That is morning show fluff and he is a serious-minded nightly news guy.

Their speed towards the climax has officially passed the legal limits here. Becky explodes on him (again) and they part ways in a huff. There is nothing keeping her from the TODAY show now--even if it means losing the family she built.

This is where the antagonist now pushes against the protagonist with so much force that it appears to have won. Becky turns her back on Daybreak and goes to her interview at NBC. Meanwhile, at the Daybreak studio, Pomeroy's co-host is infuriated with him, yet again, but this time it isn't because of anything he did toward her directly. It's because she knows where Becky is right now, and she knows that Pomeroy is the one who drove her away.

What happens next is a lovely twist. In order to succeed, the protagonist must push back on the antagonist with more force than ever before. This push at the climax, however, comes from a person who had, up until this point, been on the opposing side.

Pomeroy now realizes what a horrible thing he's done, and how quickly he needs to act to reverse it. While Becky, our protagonist, is at her interview, she can see what is happening on Daybreak through a television. And what she sees literally makes her speechless. She even stops her own dream interview to turn up the volume and watch the show.

On national live TV, Pomeroy is making a fritatta. A what? Oh! Wasn't that something from the midpoint? Yes. Yes, it was. I told you it was important.

This scene is so delectable. I seriously cry every time. It's at this point that we realize what the movie has really been about all along. It wasn't about the A Story (external journey) so much as it was about the B Story (internal journey). It's about Becky finding her place with the people who believe in her. The external part of it (the plot) was just a means for her to do so.

When Becky realizes what Pomeroy is doing--asking her to come back by way of cooking her a fritatta on live television--it is now up to her to make a final decision. This decision is at the peak of the climax, it is the decision that resolves the entire conflict of the story.

She hightails it out of NBC and dramatically runs across the streets of New York City in her dress and heels, back to the Daybreak studio. Back to her family.

And that's it. Story done (aside from a quick denouement that ties up some loose ends and repeats some running gags for a pleasant finish--it also shows that our "warring co-hosts" are now hooking up after hours, ha!).

Not surprisingly, this is the shortest post for the Morning Glory series. Contemporary stories tend to have extremely quick third acts. There is usually not a huge showdown between armies of good and evil, so to speak, like you find in sci-fi and fantasy. Everything is fixed in one quick punch.

Here's the breakdown for Act Three:

  • after her personal realization during the Dark Night of the Soul, the protagonist makes a firm decision to move forward at the break into Act Three
  • the antagonist immediately pushes against this forward movement with everything it has available, in a last ditch effort to make the protagonist fail
  • it will appear to the audience that the antagonist has won
  • at the peak of the climax the protagonist pushes back as hard as she can with everything she has available, in a last ditch effort to succeed; usually the only thing left is the firm resolve inside herself
  • protagonist realizes that what she wanted all along is not really what she needed
  • her decision at the peak of the climax resolves the main conflict
  • the climax draws on emotions built throughout the piece to make one big final impact

And just because I really love the scene where Becky is running through the streets in slow-mo, dress and hair flowing luxuriously, here is the song that accompanies it. It is a nice representation of the movie's mood, too. Love it.

I'd be glad to answer any questions you may have about any of the sections we covered in this series: Act One, Act Two (first half), Act Two (second half), and Act Three; or questions about story structure in general.

The next BDSS movie series will be in March. Until then,

Happy Writing!

*Morning Glory was written by Aline Brosh McKenna


  1. Great insights and things to learn, even if it's a girl movie. Still, I love to learn from anything, so thanks for the great series. Maybe next time choose INCEPTION or something like that for your series?

    1. I am seriously considering INCEPTION but I'm afraid I might bore people with how lengthy the posts will need to be. Or I would need to stretch it over two months instead of one. That movie is COMPLEX. But it is a very good study for story structure and character arc, I agree.

      I'm glad you found this series helpful, even if it wasn't your kind of movie.

    2. I also liked the NEVERENDING STORY series, which is what got me to finally check it off my bucket list. I missed it first go around because I was living in England at the time. I also missed Breakfast at Tiffany's. My oldest son LOVES NS. I think he read the book, too.

      You could always use Whedon's Avengers if you want a less complex movie with equally good writing. Thanks for doing these. I learn so much!

    3. THOR is on my list for consideration. But I haven't done it yet, or AVENGERS, because I'm afraid all of my posts will just be a bunch of fangirl squeeing. Too much awesomeness in those movies, haha.

    4. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I'm so glad you did a romantic comedy, since that's what I write. Looking forward to more of these posts! Printing this out so I can go over it again on paper.

    5. PS, I just ordered this movie on Netflix. Can't wait to watch it.

    6. Fabulous! Glad to see another rom-com lover here too. :-)


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