How important is a second act climax in the three act structure in this case?


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In my story I have written out a few versions of it, put them away, then came back to look them over, and came up with some new ideas. Basically the premise is about a cop who is on the trail of a serial rapist/killer villain. He ends up becoming one of the rape victims himself while getting closer in the investigation. The villain gets away with it, and he wants revenge and takes matters into his own hands.

However, after looking it over, I was wondering how I should handle him being raped. It's a suspense thriller type story, and usually in these types of stories, they have a structure, where the MC has something bad happen to him, which propels him in motion and then later, something worse happens to him which is the icing on the cake that makes him undergo a character change that determines the third act.

So I can have the rape happen at around the midpoint of the story, which sets the MC into action against the villain. So he undergoes his character arc earlier on. Or I can have him investigate the villain and the case, for a longer time, and then have his rape come at the second act climax, just before the third act. Thereby making the rape, the icing on the cake that makes him snap for the third act.

But what point of the story is it better to have the MC go through this kind of change? Should it be earlier on, or should I save it for the icing on the cake to propel the climax, do you think?

If I choose to have it earlier, than I don't really have much of a second act climax, in my story. I was researching story structure such as in books like The Anatomy of Story and Save the Cat, and both writers talk about how about two thirds to three quarters in the story, there should be a second act climax where the MC reaches his lowest point, before finally achieving victory.

But since the lowest point would be the rape, should I introduce it earlier or later on, do you think?

Kim Welch

Senior Member
Staff member
I don't think he should get raped. I think his class of kids from his 7th grade history class should be captured and held hostage so that he will do some dirty deed for the kidnappers but one of the kids is super smart and he figures out a way to create an sos signal giving their location that is being sent out over the wireless network.
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Jared Isham

The thing I always run into when following the paradigms in those books is that it I find it to be a more interesting story when everything happens sooner...or at least based off of the outline I create.

If the rape happens earlier I think it just means you have to brain storm an even bigger escalation to happen later in the story. If things become easier for the character as the story progresses, the less engaging it will be.

It sounds like you may want to brainstorm the socks off the end of your story. It is tough work but well worth it.


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Sorry... What I mean is, is that when you suggested the change, what is the theme of the new idea you are suggesting? That idea would have different themes in it, than the effects of the rape idea, so what would the new theme be that you had in mind?


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Okay thanks. But for my story it takes a series of events before the rape happens. It's not a random rape crime, and there is a build up of events and motives that leads to it. I think I need more time compared to The Brave One. Aside from being a revenge story, it's also a detective mystery story, since the MC who is a cop, is on the case of catching the mystery rapist, before becoming her next victim.

But in order to become her next victim, he has to figure out a sequence of clues, get close enough to her, not realizing she is the perp he is after, and then it will happen after all that. The Brave One used the victimization of the main character as the inciting incident.

In my story, it's the midpoint climax, as it's sometimes called. The inciting incident is something else, which gets the ball rolling that will lead to the rape. So it's also a mystery crime thriller combined with a revenge thriller as well.

One movie that's a close example to mine is Cell 211 (2009). It starts out as a survival thriller, then halfway through, it becomes a revenge driven story for the main character, once something bad happens to him that he fails to stop.


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Yes the way I wrote it, the rape would happen around the middle of act 2.

However, I was told by readers that they felt that the scenario is implausible and the characters come off looking real stupid as a result. Here is the situation as to what leads to the MC being raped:

A gang is recruiting a new member and they give him a 'blood in'. It's a police term for when a new potential recruit, has to spill the blood of another person to prove their worth to the gang. However, the gang is cautious and they want to make sure that they are not recruiting a new member who will turn out to be an undercover cop, or someone who cannot be trusted, or something like that.

So what they do with the new member, is that they have him shoot a tied up hostage, who has a hood over her head so she cannot identify anyone's faces. They are also all wearing gloves the entire time careful not to get any prints on the scene. However, the hostage is working with the gang and is just posing as a hostage. The gun that that the new recruit will be given is a fake prop gun, so no real weapon is used. The reason why the hostage is not a real hostage, but actually a gang member posing as one, is because in case the new recruit happens to be an undercover cop, and tries to save the hostage or makes a run for it and escapes, and decides to call for back up to save the hostage, the gang can then deny that any blood in happened, and the hostage will be on the gang's side and not testify against them, or have to be killed to prevent it. So the gang uses a fake hostage, who is one of them, just in case the new recruit is an undercover cop. Which he is not though.

However, before the blood in occurs, the new recruit is waiting to meet the gang in a public place, but a secluded, quiet place. Two of the gang members pull up, and search the new recruit for a wire and weapons, in case he is a cop or something. The main character cop, is on patrol at this time and sees the gang members in the distance, search the other for a wire, while minding his own business and on patrol. The MC thinks of this as suspicious, so he decides to discretely follow the gang in his unmarked car, as the gang takes the new recruit back to the cabin where they are going to do the blood in. The cabin is owned the by the woman fake hostage.

They gang goes into the cabin for the new recruit do the blood in on the woman.

The MC goes up to the cabin to look around. He doesn't trespass on private property but he goes up to the front door to have a peak in the windows, since he got suspicious of seeing the search for a wire and weapons, or what looked like to be one.

As he peaks through the windows, the gang is not doing the blood in, in front of open windows. But the MC hears screaming coming from the basement. There is a crack in the basement near the front door, and he goes to take a peak into the crack, where the screaming is coming from. He sees the woman screaming, panicking tied up, gagged and blindfolded. He sees that she is about to be harmed in the blood in and calls for back up. Thinking she is about to be harmed and not wanting to wait, he bursts in save to her, and does so, thinking he saved a real hostage, rather than one of the gang members who was only posing as one. He also manages to arrest the gang member who was nearest to him, in saving the hostage, while the other gang members and the new recruit all run away, in the process.

She cannot tell the police right away that no kidnapping happened and it was all a mistake. Mainly because she does not see which gang member the cop arrested, and she does not know what the police know. The police could know more for all she knows and she isn't certain that the MC cop stumbled upon the blood in by accident, which is what happened. She also doesn't know how the chase with the other gang members will end since the police are looking for them. Basically she doesn't want to tell the police who the other members are if they get away. If she tells the police their names, then they will be suspects in the other crimes from before, since the outfits match, and she knows that. This is why the gang ran away, is because they thought that the MC was probably arresting them for past crimes as well, and not the blood in only.

So the woman stays quiet and does not tell the back up police arriving that no kidnapping happened and it was all a misunderstanding by the MC, cause she needs to get all the facts in first, and wait to see if the other gang members who ran off, will not be caught later, first. So the woman stays quiet till she gets all the facts in first. The others get away, and only the one the MC is arrested, is caught. The police cannot find out who the other are, since they all wore gloves and their DNA is not on file at all.

The police believe the gang to be the same gang they have been after for other crimes, especially since the masks and outfits they wore, match those from previous crimes they committed, which the police are investigating. The woman has two choices. She can either tell the police that it was all a game they were playing with a prop gun, the gang took off with, and she could say that no kidnapping happened, and the cop was mistaken. However, if she tells the police this, the police are going to keep wanting to press her for the names of the gang members who got away. But she doesn't want to give them their names, since the police will then survey them and consider them the prime suspects in the past crimes.

So she doesn't want to give them their names. So the other option therefore, would be for her to stay quiet and hope that the case will blow over, because without her testimony, the case does not have a victim to a crime, and she hopes that the police will not have enough evidence of a kidnapping without the victim's testimony. The police are trying to get her to testify while temporarily holding the arrested suspect, who could not afford bail for the time being.

The police woman is the rapist villain character. She sets her sadistic sights on the MC and wants to rape him. So since she is the victim, who the police are pressuring into testifying against a gang, she acts like a victim, and wants the MC to protect her, saying that the gang may harm her since she knows too much and can place the suspect at the scene. She tells the MC that she doesn't know who any of the kidnappers are, but that since she can place the MC at the crime, having stopped the crime, that will be enough evidence to corroborate the MC, and be enough to put the villain away. Her telling the court that the MC rescued her is enough evidence, since the MC can say that she did as well as arrested the suspect. So she can place him there, and he can place her there. So this alone will be enough testimony from her to nail the suspect, as long as she says she was kidnapped.

So because she could say this to the court, the MC feels she may be in danger from the gang, should she choose to testify, which she is not. She is not even giving a statement or opening her mouth about it to protect the gang and herself. But she still wants to rape the MC. So she stages a break in at her house, calls the police and then shows the MC later. The MC believes that the gang came looking for before she called the police, and the reason they came looking was to stop her from testifying.

The MC cannot get her police protection cause the police will not pull their resources to protect an uncooperative witness who won't talk at all. So the MC decides to protect her himself, for the rest of the night, after her house is 'broken into'. This gets the MC closer to him where she sets a trap to take him hostage, drug him and rape him. Well she may use drugs if necessary. She then cleans up all the physical evidence off the MC and gets rid of all the other evidence. She then frees the MC and lets him go, and tells the police lies about how he came and threatened her into testifying and makes him look like the bad guy. It then turns into the MC's word against hers, and he bring a case for him being raped.

However, I was told by readers that this is completely unbelievable and could never happen. What do you think? Is the story too far-fetched so far? As for going for shock only, that is not my intention. I wanted to tell a s suspenseful crime story, and it would be dark and serious of course, but I wasn't going for shock value only. As for does the world need to see the story, well it's a thriller, and I mean...a lot of thrillers are not the type of movie that the world NEEDS to see, but they can still be entertaining on their own, can't they?
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No the woman is not a cop, she is a member of the gang. The MC is the cop. There is no undercover cop in the gang. The gang uses her as a fake hostage, in case the new recruit is an undercover. But he is not and it was just a precaution. There is no undercover cop.

Basically this portion of the story is mostly antagonist driven by her. Once she rapes the MC and he wants revenge after, it becomes mainly driven by him. She has her motivations for what she is doing and has a hatred for a certain type of men. But she respects the men in her gang to a degree. She does have motives for what she does but is this the only part you that doesn't make sense to you, or are there others? She is not an undercover cop though. When I say she is a fake hostage, I mean she is posing as for the gang, as part of the blood in, and is working for them. But for the first half, she is driving most of the story, and the MC is reacting to her actions.

She is not an undercover cop. But is that the only part that doesn't make sense, or what else is the problem? Do you think the MC is an idiot for falling for her needing protection in order to fall into her trap. Is that it? And you say, all you can see is everyone pointing guns at each other. Well the only time a gun is pointed is twice here. Once when the MC tries to rescue the woman, thinking she is a real hostage, and uses a gun to protect her as he arrests one of the gang members, and the others get away... and the second time, when she traps the MC, and uses a gun to take him hostage to rape him later.

That is only two times a gun is being pointed, in the first act. Is that a lot?

I can't really put my finger on what the problem is, since people just say it's a mess, with people running around. That's very specific at all. I see the story as quite simple so far, at least for me.

1. Woman poses as fake hostage so her gang can conduct a blood in on a new recruit.
2. The MC discovers the blood in and stops it, rescuing the woman thinking she is a real hostage.
3. The MC arrests another man in the process.
4. The woman doesn't want to give up the names of the gang members who have escaped so she pretends to be scared kidnap victim who doesn't want to testify or cooperate in hopes that the suspect will go free without her cooperation.
5. She sets her sights on raping the MC as her next target, so she pretends to the in danger from the gang, making the MC think that she needs protection cause the gang is after her, not wanting her to testify.
6. The MC protects her the night she stages an attempt from the gang on herself, to make him think she is in danger.
7. As he goes to protect her for the night, she traps him and rapes him and it was all a trick.

As for her reason for raping, mainly a lot of men she wanted have treated her bad and thought of her as an inferior. She is only and suffers from 'involuntary celibacy' as the term was said when I researched her problem. So after growing up with this, eventually she snaps and starts raping men she cannot have. However, if her motive for raping is the problem, then I change her motive. But is this the only problem?

I just find her motives on trapping the cop to be simple and not a mess. But if it is a mess, is okay if you explained to me the root cause in where it starts? Is the MC too stupid to fall for her trap? The MC is suppose to be naive at first to her playing the victim who is in danger, but then after his rape, he gets smarter and eventually brings her down. But is he too dumb? What is the root cause of the mess?
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Sorry if I sound like I am over explaining it. I was just trying to lay it all out to make sure. I didn't mean to write police woman. I don't know why I wrote it. I mean to write lonely, instead of ownly as well. Sorry. I actually broke up with my gf, and was distracted and upset, and couldn't write the best explanation. Sorry about that.

I was thinking that the character should be in her 30s. Mainly I am an aspiring filmmaker trying to break into the business, and I do write a lot of my own scripts to make. Most of the actors I know are in their 30s and I was going to use them again most likely. So I intended her to be in her 30s, as I already have an actress lined up, who is in her late thirties, going on 40. But if she should be younger, than maybe I can go for somebody else. I just like to work with the talent I have.

I was told before though, that it would be more convincing if she were older than 25 though, cause if she is going to snap to the point of raping men, it should be a build up of rejections over the years, and not just a few when she is young. So is that true?

Basically the men she hates are ones like the cop who rescued her, who seem to get any woman they want and have big bright family futures because of it. She even becomes to label him in that category also, when she wants to take the cop out on a date to thank him for rescuing her, and he rejects her of course.

I can come up with a backstory for her, which I am still working on. Mainly I came up with a lot of the immediate plot first, in order to get to the rape and how should would get away with it. The plot with the gang and the new recruit also comes into play later, as part of the MC's revenge plan, and the consequences as to how it goes wrong. So I came up with a lot of the plot driven elements first. I knew what she was doing and how, and I just haven't fully come up with the 'why' yet and her background.

Also, even though the first half of my script is mostly antagonist driven by her, the story is told from the protagonist's POV. So the protagonist does not know who she really is, does not know that the blood in was fake, or that it was a blood in, as oppose to just a kidnapping, and does not know that she is using her being in danger as a kidnap victim as an excuse to lure the cop into a trap to rape him.

So since it's told from the MC's POV for the first half, the reader or audience, does not her past at all at this point, and does not know she is one of the gang members. I wanted to tell it from the MC's POV in order for the audience to be surprised, when he is surprised and not knowing more than what he knows. So is this bad, as it will cause confusion? Can I get the audience to say to themselves, "I don't know why this character is doing what she is doing or the gang, but that's okay, cause I will find out later"?

Plus since it's told from the MC's point of view, she is not going to tell the MC all about her and tell him which rejection was her final straw, cause she doesn't need to give the MC any information on her, more than he needs to know, since he is a cop. So I thought maybe her background should remain a mystery but in a good way. I mean in The Silence of the Lambs for example you don't really know Hannibal Lecter's past or why he does what he does, or what set him off. You find out later in the prequels but when the movie came out, at that time, audiences accepted an evil villain with a mystery unknown background. Can I do the same here?

And yes there are actually videos kept which the cop uses later to get an arrest warrant, as part of his revenge plan to set her up, as well as the other gang members. I'd say she has killed a few, maybe over 10 by this point. The police know about her past crimes from other incidents reported in the past. As for how she charms men, I am thinking she is lacking in charm skills, which is why she has to lure the MC by making him think she is in danger by the one group of people who may have motive to keep her quiet, the gang who kidnapped her before, or so the cop thinks. But the MC also has a faithful girlfriend he is devoted to as well, and is not going to stray.

But I have to work on what she is doing to drive men away as well. I just have the plot driven part of the story down more, as to how the MC is tricked, and how it came to be so far.

I will go over the points you made:

1. Woman poses as fake hostage so her gang can conduct a blood in on a new recruit. Nobody in her gang likes her either? She must have some pretty serious issues.
2. The MC discovers the blood in and stops it, rescuing the woman thinking she is a real hostage. So, he just happened upon it? If he works in the gang unit, he would likely know some of these guys - and maybe even her. Since you say some of the clothes were recognized, there must be some kind of familiarity, no? Wouldn't the gang members know him as well?
3. The MC arrests another man in the process. The rest got away, the woman plays victim. These gangs are pretty organized, and likely have some protocol when it comes to arrests and giving information. This feels like she has no experience, or did not go through any initiation herself. Gang chicks get a blood-in as well. She didn't?
4. The woman doesn't want to give up the names of the gang members who have escaped so she pretends to be scared kidnap victim who doesn't want to testify or cooperate in hopes that the suspect will go free without her cooperation. Cops in the gang unit would likely be suspicious. Just saying. I get the gang would make her look different - innocent like, but this would not be a new scenario for the cops. They would know about this kind of iniciation, and be wary of her, watching for even the smallest clue. Also, wouldn't new gang members know of it? It's hardly a secret.
5. She sets her sights on raping the MC as her next target, so she pretends to the in danger from the gang, making the MC think that she needs protection cause the gang is after her, not wanting her to testify. Why does she set his sights on him? Did he also reject her?
6. The MC protects her the night she stages an attempt from the gang on herself, to make him think she is in danger. Okay, so the gang knows she is the serial killer? Why would the gang agree to help her? Or did she just make it up, and there is no gang that comes to her house? It isn't clear.
7. As he goes to protect her for the night, she traps him and rapes him and it was all a trick. Again, what is her reason?
1. I was thinking they would just ask her to volunteer nicely, or she could volunteer the idea herself, so the gang does not have to risk using a real hostage. Maybe she could volunteer herself, and just tell the gang to make sure that the new recruit doesn't harm me, and make the gun is loaded with real live rounds.

2. Basically what happens is, is on patrol and sees two of the gang members search a man for a wire and weapons, in a secluded area, where they met the man. The then all get in a car a drive off. The MC thinks they might be up to something criminal by seeing the search from a couple of hundred feet away, and he decides to discretely follow them in his unmarked car, and see what they do. From here, he stumbles upon the blood in, while observing them. But does not know who any of the gang members are. I wanted it this way, cause if he doesn't know any of them it adds more mystery for him to find out later.

3. You say she it looks like she got no experience herself. Well she would have gotten a blood in way before. Why? Why does she seem like she has no experience? Cause she plays the victim? She just does that temporarily and acts traumatized so she doesn't have to talk to the police right away, until she finds out what is really going on and why a cop turned out to be there.

4. The cops may be suspicious but since she sets her sights on the MC to rape him, her goal is to convince him she is in danger in order to get him to protect him and lure him into trap. So she just has to sell it enough I guess. You say cops are use to kidnap victims turning out to be in collusion with the kidnappers if they will not talk. I talked to cops in my research though and they said that they have never come across an incident where the victim was in collusion, and a lot of times victims in real life, will not talk.

5. She originally needs a reason to spend some time with the MC. She cannot ask him out, cause cops do not go on dates with witnesses in cases. It's against protocol. So she uses the kidnapping case itself, as a means to spend time with him, by making him think she may be in danger and all that, to get him closer. He rejects her when she becomes seductive, and then she lures him into a trap and rapes him, if that makes sense.

6. She makes it all up and stages a break in at her house to get the MC to come and investigate in order to lure him in. However, the gang is also watching her place, cause they think it is suspicious that she is pretending to be in danger and suspicious that she hasn't tried to do anything to get the one suspect off yet. So the gang is surveying her, and sees that she is trying to seduce a cop, and sees that she is trying to get him to watch her place. So they see this and get suspicious as well. The gang knows she has raped before, and are okay with it, and she covers up the evidence in the past, and it's all good with them. But they do not approve of her raping one of the investigating officers of course.

7. Her reason is is that she targets men like him who can get whatever women they want and reject her.

Does this help explains things at all?

As far as reading the points on the idiot plot, I understand what it means, and know the concept. But what character in my story is an idiot, or is every character? It seems to me the biggest idiot has to be the prosecutor cause he lets the case get out of hand to a degree, but is it okay to have one idiot only? Or are the protagonist and antagonist idiots as well?
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New member
Okay thanks. The reason why the gang is there cause it will cause certain pay offs to happen that I want later on. However, she is not just a 30 year old who walks in. She has been a member for a long time, and perhaps one of the first. So she is a member just like the rest.

As for the police, can I make her convince the MC that she in danger and lure him into a trap?

It's just if I have it so she is saved from a random store robbery, it will change a lot around than what is needed. Later on in the story in order for the MC to get revenge on her, he has to go through the gang first, and this leads to other consequences, such as another cop getting killed, in order to get to the ending that I would like.

However, in order to get to that ending, she needs a gang to back her up. What if I make it clear so that she has been part of the gang for a long time, if readers are mislead and think she just walked in?

And what if I made the MC more naive to fall for her tricks. Would this help? You say that the gang is a distraction but they play a large part in the plot later on. So can I have her be part of a gang still, since I want the gang to play a part in the rest of the story as well?

I also would like to know how I am rambling if that's okay? Maybe it's something I can work on and explain things better :) You also say that gangs do not have members over 25. What do they, at 25 retire, and lead honest lives after? I mean where I live there was a gang boss who was arrested and he was in his 50s, or I read in the news. So can I make the gang like that where some of the members are older than usual?

Well you said the problems are a gang not allowing some 30 year old to walk in. But that problem is already solved since they already new her before her 30s. You also said that the police would not be fooled. Could I make the MC more naive than the other police, and she could prey on that? As far as why she rapes him, I said it was because she want revenge on the type of guys who get any women they want and reject her. So what was it about that, that wasn't clear, or that I need to explore more?
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