(Elements of Act I checklist is here).
Elements of Act II:1 checklist is here:
In a 2-hour movie this section starts at about 60 minutes, and ends at about 90 minutes.
In a 400-page book, this section starts at about p. 300 and ends toward the end of the book.
First, identify the separate SEQUENCES of this act. In a movie, usually there will be two 15- minute long sequences, Sequence 5 and Sequence 6, and the climax of Sequence 6 will be the ACT TWO CLIMAX, at about 90 minutes into the movie. But if the movie is longer or shorter than 2 hours, the sequences will be longer or shorter to match, or there might be three sequences or even four in Act II, Part 2, and in a shorter movie this section is often condensed into just one sequence or two very short sequences. (I've noticed that Act II:2 tends to be the place where a shorter movie will condense the action).
A book may have 2, 3, or even 4 sequences in this section, and the page count can vary.
Act II, part 2 will almost always have these elements:
* RECALIBRATING– after the shock or defeat of the game-changer in the midpoint, the hero/ine must REVAMP THE PLAN and try a NEW MODE OF ATTACK.
What’s the new plan?
A good story will always be clear about the stakes. Characters often speak the stakes aloud. How have the stakes changed? Do we have new hopes or fears about what the protagonist will do and what will happen to him or her?
* ESCALATING ACTIONS/OBSESSIVE DRIVE
Little actions by the hero/ine to get what s/he wants have not cut it, so the actions become bigger and usually more desperate.
Do we see a new level of commitment in the hero/ine?
How are the hero/ine’s actions becoming more desperate?
* It’s also worth noting that while the hero/ine is generally (but not always!) winning in Act II:1, s/he generally begins to lose in Act II:2. Often this is where everything starts to unravel and spiral out of control.
* INCREASED ATTACKS BY ANTAGONIST
Just as the hero/ine is becoming more desperate to get what s/he wants, the antagonist also has failed to get what s/he wants and becomes more desperate and takes riskier actions.
* HARD CHOICES AND CROSSING THE LINE (IMMORAL ACTIONS by the main character to get what s/he wants)
Do we see the hero/ine crossing the line and doing immoral things to get what s/he wants?
* LOSS OF KEY ALLIES (possibly because of the hero/ine’s obsessive actions, possibly through death or injury by the antagonist).
Do any allies walk out on the hero/ine or get killed or injured?
* A TICKING CLOCK (can happen anywhere in the story, or there may not be one.)
* REVERSALS AND REVELATIONS/TWISTS
* THE LONG DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL and/or VISIT TO DEATH (also known as: ALL IS LOST).
There is always a moment in a story where the hero/ine seems to have lost everything, and it is almost always right before the Second Act Climax, or it IS the Second Act Climax.
What is the All Is Lost scene?
* In a romance or romantic comedy, the All Is Lost moment is often a THE LOVER MAKES A STAND scene, where s/he tells the loved one – “Enough of this bullshit waffling, either commit to me or don’t, but if you don’t, I’m out of here.” This can be the hero/ine or the love interest making this stand.
THE SECOND ACT CLIMAX
* Often will be a final revelation before the end game: often the knowledge of who the opponent really is, that will propel the hero/ine into the FINAL BATTLE.
* Often will be another devastating loss, the ALL IS LOST scene. In a mythic structure or Chosen One story or mentor story this is almost ALWAYS where the mentor dies or is otherwise taken out of the action, so the hero/ine must go into the final battle alone.
* Answers the Central Question – and often the answer is “no” – so that the hero/ine again must come up with a whole new plan.
* Often is a SETPIECE.
More discussion on Elements Of Act II:2
Screenwriting Tricks For Authors, available on Kindle and for PC and Mac.