As we continue our discussion of Act II: Part 2,I want to make sure you’re aware of this important story element. It can be tremendously useful—and it’s very rarely discussed!
You could characterize the two halves of Act II with these very, very broad strokes:
Act II: Part I (the second quarter of a book or script) is often the daylight Act, where your protagonist takes big, bold, “male” actions.
Act II: Part 2 (the third quarter of a book or script) generally accesses a darker, more mystical, “feminine” or non-binary energy.
And – in Act II:2 –
New and unexpected help sometimes surfaces for the hero/ine in a scene that mythologist Joseph Campbell called “The Visit to the Goddess.”
It is annoying and typical of sexist Hollywood that Christopher Vogler left this step completely out of his Cliff’s Notes recap of Campbell’s analysis of the universal Mythic Journey. But this can be an extremely powerful scene, and I often find when I’m teaching workshops that a Visit to the Goddess scene is exactly what’s missing in a writer’s Act II: Part 2. (Note: sometimes you’ll see this scene in Act III!)
The Goddess represents intuition and inner knowing—and can be crucial in illuminating hidden truths, especially about how the protagonist has been wrong about their approach to life. Up to this point, external action has failed the hero/ine—but now a consultation with a more intuitive power often yields the glimpse of a solution.
You sometimes see an overt personification of the Goddess, like the Oracle in The Matrix,or Galadriel in Fellowship of the Ring.
But the Goddess can also be as subtle as a memory of a departed loved one. When the Hero/ine of a story has lost their mother or grandmother, the Visit to the Goddess can be a crucial moment of understanding something important about themselves by reconciling with the memory of the mother. In Inception, the Goddess scene is Cobb’s dream visit with his dead wife.
Let’s look at a few examples.