Jeffery Deaver, the prolific writer of thrillers, once said, “Outlining is the most efficient way to structure a novel to achieve the greatest emotional impact. The most breathtaking prose and brilliantly drawn characters are wasted if the plot meanders and digresses. Outlining lets you create a framework that compels your audience to keep reading from the first page to the last.” Explore how the Story Beats apply to Act 3 of L. Frank Baum’s action fantasy, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Recap from Prior Posts
The prior posts explain the process and Global Story Beats.
Principles, Not Rules
There is no single right way to structure stories. Instead, the Story Beats serve as a map, not a formula. Writers remain in control of all elements.
Full Text Available for Each Scene
Click on a scene link (e.g., Scene 01) to see the full text from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in a separate browser tab.
13. PLUNGE INTO 3
In this scene, the victory at the end of Act 2 is reversed, plunging the chief protagonist into an all-is-lost state (i.e., a looming sense of physical, professional, or psychological death). It’s the lead’s lowest point in the story. As per Blake Snyder, it’s like that moment when a caterpillar wraps itself in a cocoon.
The antagonist somehow rises from defeat and reverses the lead’s victory. Although not physical, it still feels like death, plunging the protagonist into a desperate state.
The lead confronts the “lie” that perpetuates the primary flaw and, up to this point, has prevented the resolution of the story problem. Faced with the truth, the protagonist vows to make whatever personal changes are necessary to overcome any lingering self-sabotage (i.e., eliminate the power of the “lie”).
But this scene does not permit the lead time to debate what to do next (while still wrapped in the cocoon). It’s the setup for the PONDER sequence.
Like the THRUST INTO 2, the PLUNGE INTO 3 is an irreversible event, creating an impression this might be the end of the chief protagonist and gives the audience a sense the CLIMAX is on the way.
- Does lead encounter something that reverses the prior sense of victory? Dorothy and friends lose their way, and if they can’t find the Emerald City, no one will receive what they want.
- Is the event big enough to plunge lead into Act 3? They are so demoralized, they all sit down.
- Is there a whiff of impending physical, professional, or emotional death? Unless they find their way to the Emerald City, each will experience an emotional death: Dorothy won’t return home, Scarecrow will remain brainless, Tin Woodman won’t get courage, and Lion will stay a coward.
- Does it feel like another TRIGGER for change? Yes. Something must change or else everything they’ve gone through will not have been worth it.
- Has the scene revealed the chief protagonist’s “Shard of Glass” (i.e., whatever keeps lead’s emotional wound from healing)? Dorothy looks to her companions for help, yet they are tired and appear out of hope or suggestions.
- Is this truly as low as the lead can go before a physical, professional, or emotional death? With no one to help Dorothy, she seems near her breaking point.
- Does lead learn a valuable universal life lesson (i.e., the internal theme)? It’s not entirely obvious in this scene, but since her companions are not offering solutions to the problem, Dorothy must look within herself for what to do next.
- Does the lead recognize the need for change because the truth (i.e., the internal theme) and the lie (i.e., lead’s ingrained belief) are incompatible? Yes, Dorothy believes her help must come from outside, and the need to look within for self-sufficiency becomes obvious in the next scene.
- Is the lead now willing to embrace fully the need for change (i.e., the internal theme)? When Dorothy lost heart, she sat down and looked at her companions, and they looked at her. Baum makes the point for self-sufficiency by having Toto look at Dorothy as if to ask what they should do next.
- Is the lead faced with an event that includes more overwhelming obstacles? Dorothy knew to go straight east, but at noon, with the sun directly overhead, they lost their way. The next day, the sun was behind a cloud, yet they kept going—hoping instead of knowing it was the right direction. The meandering caused grumbling and a sense that no one would get what they wanted from Oz.
- At the low moment, does the lead make a proactive decision to overcome flaw? Dorothy’s decision to overcome her flaw becomes obvious in the next scene, which was hinted by Toto looking to her for what they should do next.
- Is the decision to change based on replacing the lie with truth? Dorothy’s actions in the next scene show she’s becoming more self-sufficient.
- Is the decision based on what the lead needs, not wants? Yes, but her desire to return home drives the decision.
- Is lead’s decision the right way to change? Yes, and this will be obvious in the upcoming scenes.
- As the scene progresses, is the Changed World (Act 3) a blend of the Stable World (Act 1) and the Unstable World (Act 2A and B)? This is not clear in this scene, but it will be obvious in the upcoming scenes.
- Do the lead’s choices and actions move the story forward? Instead of waiting for her friends to come up with a solution, Dorothy proactively comes up with a plan.
- Does the lead have an updated want (i.e., a new goal based on all that has happened)? Dorothy’s new goal is to call on the field mice for directions to the Emerald City.
- Does the scene show some symbolism of death and rebirth? Yes. Scarecrow’s response to Dorothy’s suggestion shows a renewed level of hope and enthusiasm (rebirth), emphasizing the idea came from her instead of the companions.
➨Beat and Scene Summary
- Scene 37: Dorothy and friends walk toward the Emerald City. Finding their way turns out to be more difficult than when carried by the Winged Monkeys. They don’t know east from west, but Dorothy is sure they’ll come to some place. The friends continue walking while grumbling about the long journey. Frustrated and tired, Dorothy loses heart, and they all sit down—Toto was too tired to even chase a butterfly. Then Dorothy comes up with the idea to call on the field mice to show them the way to the Emerald City. Scarecrow cried, “Why didn’t we think of that before?”
In this sequence of scenes, the lead ponders prior choices, goal dedication, self worth, and personal abilities.
The scenes show the lead, processing everything that has happened so far, like a caterpillar preparing to burst from the cocoon and become a butterfly. At the end of the sequence, the lead knows how to overcome personal flaws and antagonist’s obstacles — it’s that point in the journey when the lead clearly understands what must be done.
The emotional sequence shows how the lead questions everything and summarizes regrets. But it’s also where the chief protagonist turns past negatives into future positives, leveraging the emotions into an immediate force for both change and action.
The co-protagonist (e.g., love interest, mentor, or helper.) influences the realization of required actions.
The sequence describes how the lead reflects and then understands what must be done to fix the challenges from Act 2, committing to learn the universal life lesson (i.e., internal theme) and to make the needed change.
- Is there a summary of events in the sequence? Yes, there are summaries of past events and an explanation of the Winged Monkeys.
- What are the lead’s disappointments and regrets? Implied by the storyline, Dorothy feels disappoint because it takes so long to see Oz, increasing her regret for causing Aunt Em’s emotional distress.
- Is another essential character part of the lead’s change? Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion all are part of and contribute to the Dorothy’s change.
- Does the lead’s willingness to change highlight the internal theme? Glimpses of Dorothy’s decisions and actions show she already has the ability of self-sufficiency.
- Does lead choose to address that need? Yes, but it’s subtle, implied rather than obvious.
- Does the lead learn the life lesson (i.e., the internal theme)? Dorothy’s dream in scene 40 shows she is aware of her reason to return home (i.e., Aunt Em’s distress), which implies she must assert her self-sufficiency.
- Does lead’s choice show the right way to change? Yes, but her actions are subtle.
- Is Act 3’s Changed World derived from Act 1’s Stable World and Act 2’s Unstable World? Yes, the sequence combines elements of the stable and unstable worlds..
- Is Act 3 a true break that moves the lead forward? It’s obvious Dorothy and companions are going to do whatever it takes to attain their desires.
- Does the lead have renewed vigor for solving the story problem and fulfilling the new want? Yes, which will be shown in the FACE-OFF scene.
➨Beat and Scene Summary
- Scene 38: Dorothy uses the little whistle to call the small gray field mice, including their leader. The Queen says the Golden Cap on Dorothy’s head has the power to summon the Winged Monkeys, who can fly them to the City of Oz in less than an hour. Unaware of how to use the Cap, Dorothy asks for and receives instruction. The mice leave, Dorothy invokes the Cap’s charm, the Winged Monkeys arrive, and the creatures carry her and friends toward the Emerald City.
- Scene 39: Dorothy rides safely in the arms of the King and another Winged Monkey. The King tells how a joke played years ago by his grandfather on Princess Gayelette’s lover, Prince Quelala, resulted in their obligation to obey the Golden Cap. Dorothy spots the Emerald City. She marvels at the rapid flight just before the Winged Monkeys place the travelers before the gate of the City. Dorothy comments on the good ride, and Lion remarks how lucky she brought the wonderful Golden Cap.
- Scene 40: The same Guardian of the Gates meets Dorothy and friends, and asks why they’ve returned. The news that Dorothy melted the Wicked Witch of the West causes a stir, and the guard shows his respect by bowing before the young girl. The guard outfits them with the green spectacles, leads them through the palace to the soldier messenger, he lets them in, the green girl shows them to their old rooms, and the soldier informs Oz, who does not reply. Scarecrow sends a message that if Oz does not see them, they’ll call on the Winged Monkeys to see if the Wizard keeps his promises or not. Frightened, Oz sends back word agreeing to meet in the morning. Dorothy dreams of returning to Kansas, where Aunt Em tells her how glad she was to have her little girl home again.
The scene includes a face-off between chief protagonist and antagonist, brought on by the lead’s prior choices.
This turning point in the story forces the lead and antagonist to re-engage. It is not a fight, but the setup for the upcoming BATTLE 2.
- How does the FACE-OFF serve as the setup for the upcoming BATTLE 2? Dorothy demands Oz fulfill his promises.
- What shows the chief protagonist and antagonist can’t escape their upcoming fight? They refuse to leave the Throne Room.
- What establishes the expectation that only one will survive BATTLE 2? Dorothy and her friends are intent on making Oz fulfill his promises.
➨Beat and Scene Summary
- Scene 41: The green-whiskered soldier takes Dorothy and friends to the Throne Room. They expect to see Oz, but the Wizard says he is invisible to the eyes of mortals. Dorothy says they are there to claim Oz’s promises. Dorothy and then each friend remind Oz of what he promised them. After Dorothy tells how she melted the Wicked Witch, Oz orders them to come back to tomorrow. Scarecrow rebels, saying they won’t wait a day longer. Dorothy emphasizes the Wizard must keep his promises.
16. BATTLE 2
In this sequence of scenes shown in (A) through (E) below, the chief protagonist and antagonist fight intensely, knowing only one will survive the second battle, emphasizing what the lead must go through, similar to how a butterfly must struggle to emerge from the cocoon.
The lead faces the potential for either physical, emotional, or professional death. But going into BATTLE 2, things are different because the lead has learned the internal theme and (A) prepares a plan. Then the protagonist leads the fight and (B) executes the plan.
But just when the lead’s victory seems at hand, the antagonist introduces some twist that upsets the protagonist’s best efforts and the protagonist (C) fails. To keep up the fight, the lead (D) regroups and taps an inner strength and boldness.
At the end of this sequence, the protagonist feels the burden of the outcome and (E) improvises a new plan.
- How do the scenes clarify only one will survive this battle? The balloon whisks Oz away without Dorothy. The Winged Monkeys cannot carry Dorothy across the land to Kansas, but they can take her to see Glinda.
- How does the lead prepare, execute, but fail? Dorothy is ready to go with Oz, but that fails. She wants the Winged Monkeys to carry her to Kansas, but that fails and wastes the second of three Golden Cap wishes.
- How does lead get the inner strength and courage to overcome the antagonist? Dorothy receives encouragement when the Winged Monkeys carry her to the land of Quadlings, where Glinda agrees to see her.
- How does lead improvise an alternative but doubtful plan? Dorothy goes to see Glinda, but the whether the Good Witch will help remains doubtful.
- Does the last scene in the sequence foreshadow an all-out fight is coming in the CLIMAX? It’s not clear, but based on prior failures, the reader expects another fight.
➨Beat and Scene Summary
- Scene 42: The Lion roars to frighten the Wizard. Toto jumps, tipping over a screen. They spot a little old man who had been hiding behind the screen. The little old man responds to their questions, and it’s obvious he has lied to them, caring more about himself than them. Scarecrow calls him a humbug, and they worry whether the Wizard will fulfill their wants. Oz begs them to keep his secret, he shows them his many disguises, and admits he is a humbug. To appease their concerns, the Wizard invites them to sit and he’ll tell them his story.
- Scene 43: Oz tells his story: he grew up and became a ventriloquist, later a balloonist, and how the wind carried him miles away to a strange land. The people where he landed think he’s a wizard, and Oz lets them believe he has powers. Because they were afraid of him, they did anything he said. He ordered the people to build the Emerald City and wear the green spectacles, but Oz isolated himself from the people because he feared the four witches and didn’t want anyone to realize he was really powerless. After Oz confessed he’s a fake, Scarecrow, Lion, Tin Woodman, and Dorothy demanded fulfillment of the Wizard’s promises of brains, courage, heart, and return home.
- Scene 44: Scarecrow heads to the Throne Room to get his brains from Oz. He sees the little man engaged in deep thought. Oz asks Scarecrow if it’s okay to remove his head. Scarecrow says it’s okay as long as Oz puts on a better one. Oz stuffs Scarecrow’s head with bran, pins, and needles, leaving the straw man feeling wise indeed. When Scarecrow returns to the palace rooms, Lion and Tin Woodman acknowledge he has received brains. Tin Woodman and Lion visit Oz, and respectively get a heart and courage. Oz comments to Lion it will take more than imagination to carry Dorothy back to Kansas, and he’s not sure how it can be done.
- Scene 45: For three days, Dorothy waits for Oz to call her to the Throne Room. She listens to Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Lion gush about how Oz had given them what they wanted, satisfying everyone except Dorothy. On the fourth day, Oz calls Dorothy to the Throne Room, and explains how he has a way for her to get back to Kansas—in a balloon. He builds the balloon and makes it ready for flight. Oz invites Dorothy into the basket, but she can’t find Toto. While she hunts for the little dog, the ropes break and the balloon flies away without her and Toto.
- Scene 46: Scarecrow is now ruler of the Emerald City. He invites Dorothy to stay, but she has her heart set on returning home, and live with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Scarecrow suggests calling on the Winged Monkeys. Dorothy summons the Winged Monkeys with the Golden Cap. The Winged Monkeys cannot grant her second wish because they belong to this country and cannot leave it, demoralizing Dorothy, for she has wasted the next-to-last charm of the Golden Cap. Scarecrow suggests calling the soldier with green whiskers and get his advice. The soldier recommends they travel to see the Witch of the South — Glinda.
- Scene 47: It’s time to leave the Emerald City. Before beginning their journey, Dorothy and friends say their goodbyes to the pretty green girl and soldier with green whiskers. After traveling through green fields with bright flowers, they come to an enormous tree with wide-spreading branches, and it picks up Scarecrow and flings him. Dorothy asks, “What shall we do?” The Tin Woodman says he’ll try. The tin man chops off a limb of the tree. It shrinks back, another catches Toto, and Tin Woodman chops off that branch, and they continue their journey. When they come to a high wall which seemed to be made of china, Tin Woodman says he’ll make a ladder to climb over.
- Scene 48: The Tin Woodman builds the ladder while Dorothy, Toto, and Lion rest. Scarecrow wonders why the high wall exists. Scarecrow and then Dorothy climb the ladder and peer over the high wall, each exclaiming, “Oh, my!” Lion and Tin Woodman follow, and they, too, say, “Oh, my.” With all four sitting on the wall, they observe a strange sight: a land with a smooth, white and shiny landscape, and inhabited by china creatures and people. As they approach, a startled cow kicks the milk pale, breaking off its leg. The milkmaid says the mender must glue on the leg. They meet a princess who fearfully asks Dorothy not to chase her. Dorothy wants to take the princess back to Kansas, but she refuses because leaving home would make her unhappy.
- Scene 49: Dorothy and friends continue their journey. After passing through a dreadful bog, they come to an old-growth forest with gigantic trees. They encounter various wild beasts, but the animals welcome Lion as the King of Beasts. The forest creatures want Lion to fight their enemy and bring peace to the animals and forest once more. The tiger tells Lion a fierce enemy has come to the forest — a giant spider who eats the animals. Lion leaves his friends and the forest animals to do battle with the giant spider. With one blow, Lion slays the giant spider, and all the beasts of the forest bow to him as their new King.
- Scene 50: The little girl and her companions meet a big-headed man without arms. The man forbids them to continue over the hill to Quadlings country, and Scarecrow says they must. With his colossal head, the armless man rams Scarecrow, sending him tumbling down the hill. The Hammer-Heads repel Lion, who says, “It is useless to fight people with shooting heads; no one can withstand them.” Tin Woodman suggests Dorothy call the Winged Monkeys, who arrive quickly, carrying her and friends over the hill, and setting them down in the beautiful country of the Quadlings near a farmhouse. The farmer’s wife feeds them and gives directions to the castle of the Good Witch. They head out and come to three young girls in uniforms. One soldier girl says she’ll ask if the Good Witch Glinda will see them, and they’re admitted at once.
The scene concludes with the chief protagonist achieving positive or negative results tied to both the story’s goal and lead’s need, generating either a win/win, win/lose, lose/win, or lose/lose.win/lose, lose/win, or lose/lose.
The scene begins with the execution of the lead’s improvised plan, and the protagonist takes on the antagonist one last time with renewed strength.
After the TRIGGER event in Act 1, the lead resisted engagement. But at the CLIMAX in Act 3, the protagonist commits to doing whatever it takes to defeat the antagonist.
Act 1 established an open-switch question in readers’ minds. The CLIMAX sets up the closing of that switch in the upcoming RESOLUTION.
For example, in a mystery, the TRIGGER event typically asks, “Who done it?” The CLIMAX identifies the criminal. Regardless of the question established in the TRIGGER, it’s essential in the CLIMAX to prepare readers for the answer in the RESOLUTION.
Usually the lead wins in the CLIMAX. But sometimes the protagonist loses to emphasize what can happen in a cautionary tale. The struggle to escape from the cocoon is over and the lead emerges as a butterfly, but the ultimate survival depends on the shape of the story.
- Is the antagonist present in this scene? The antagonistic environment (i.e., the insurmountable distance to Kansas) is present.
- Is the outcome clear, and whether win or lose, tied to story goal (lead’s new want) and lead’s need (i.e., the internal theme)? The external want to return home and the internal need for self-sufficiency are both present.
- Does this outcome resolve the story’s problem? The Good Witch Glinda will use the Golden Cap to complete the desires of Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion. Then Glinda tells Dorothy, “If you had known their power [i.e., the silver shoes] you could have gone back to your Aunt Em the very first day you came to this country.”
- Does the outcome reward readers with fulfilled expectations? The CLIMAX allows each co-protagonist to highlight that without the challenge of the journey (i.e., overcoming life’s challenges), they would not have received the desires of their hearts. Glad for the outcome, Dorothy says she’s ready to return home.
- Does this scene set up the RESOLUTION to tie up loose ends? Yes. Dorothy claps the heels of her shoes together three times, saying: “Take me home to Aunt Em!”
- Does the scene and outcome align with the story’s external theme? Yes. In scene 8, Dorothy stated the external theme: “No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.”
➨Beat and Scene Summary
- Scene 51: Dorothy and friends make themselves presentable to see the Good Witch. They meet the young and beautiful Glinda, and Dorothy shares her greatest wish is to get back to Kansas. The witch asks for the Golden Cap, and Dorothy gladly gives it to her. Glinda thinks she has three needs of the Winged Monkeys, and asks Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion what they plan to do once Dorothy returns to Kansas. Scarecrow wants to govern Oz. Tin Woodman wants to rule the Winkies. Lion wants to be King of the old forest and the beasts that live there. Glinda tells Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion the Winged Monkeys will carry them to their desired destinations, and she explains to Dorothy the silver shoes will take her home to Kansas. After a tearful goodbye to her three friends, Dorothy claps the heals of the silver shoes together three times and commands, “Take me home to Aunt Em!”
The last scenes tie up loose ends and satisfy readers with the emotions they expect from the Changed World, and can include an epilogue.
The CLIMAX resolves the core conflict (i.e., either a win or a loss), but other questions may remain open. Therefore, the RESOLUTION must tie up loose ends plus pay off all promises established by the writer from the opening page through the CLIMAX scene.
This Changed World is not the same as the Stable World, and the RESOLUTION scene shows the contrasts between the two. The Changed World combines aspects of the Stable World and Unstable World, plus it may offer previously unseen elements.
Many readers expect a transformation of the chief protagonist, and sometimes the co-protagonists. Each writer chooses the right level of change for based on a combination of personal preferences, chosen genre, and story.
In a series, the RESOLUTION serves as the setup for the next book.
- Is every clue, red herring, foreshadow, and promise paid off? The story fulfills the wants and needs of Dorothy and friends.
- Is the chief protagonist’s (and optionally, the co-protagonist’s) transformation clear? From over reliance on others to recognizing the power she already possessed, Dorothy’s transformation is complete. Also, Scarecrow got brains, Tin Woodman got a heart, and Lion got courage, plus each received a kingdom to rule.
- Why is the story’s close the right fit for this genre and lead? A fantasy action for children can be a cautionary tale, but in Baum’s story, it seems most fitting the protagonist and all co-protagonists received the desires of their hearts while teaching readers the value of home, self-sufficiency, and good triumphing over evil. For example, even though still a young girl in scene 52, she’s no longer “Dorothy, the Small and Meek” (i.e., her stated perception of self in scene 26). As the story progressed, Dorothy overcame evil and hardships, more frequently than she realized, and that serves as an excellent lesson for youth.
- What in the RESOLUTION encourages readers to get the next book? The setup for the next book is not present in this scene, but the CLIMAX raises questions about what might happen in the kingdoms ruled by Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion. Here’s a list of 13 books that followed the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900).
- The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904)
- Ozma of Oz (1907)
- Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908)
- The Road to Oz (1909)
- The Emerald City of Oz (1910)
- The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913)
- Tik-Tok of Oz (1914)
- The Scarecrow of Oz (1915)
- Rinkitink in Oz (1916)
- The Lost Princess of Oz (1917)
- The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918)
- The Magic of Oz (1919, posthumously published)
- Glinda of Oz (1920, posthumously published)
- Does the RESOLUTION show the contrast with the HOOK? Instead of devastation from the tornado, Dorothy sees a new farmhouse, Uncle Henry milking cows, and her aunt Watering cabbages. Aunt Em folds the little girl into her arms and covers the child’s face with kisses — no more gray people!
- What provides a closure on the past and offers a hint of the future? At the joyful reunion, Dorothy said, “I’m so glad to be home again!”
- Is the story’s external theme motif established in the HOOK mirrored in RESOLUTION? Yes. The HOOK described a joyless home, and the RESOLUTION shows the reversed image — a happy home!
➨Beat and Scene Summary
- Scene 52: When Dorothy arrives, she sees a new farmhouse, where Uncle Henry milks the cows, and Aunt Em comes out of the house to water the cabbages. Dorothy runs toward Aunt Em. Her aunt folds the little girl into her arms and showers the child with kisses. Aunt Em asks, “Where in the world did you come from?” Dorothy answers, “From the Land of Oz, and here is Toto, too. And oh, Aunt Em! I’m so glad to be home again!”
Act 3 Wrap Up
Regardless of whether you like to preplan your writing or prefer to free-write and edit later, story structure enables you to surprise and delight readers.
Next week, in the last post for this series, I’ll summarize key lessons.
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In your stories, what type of endings do you prefer: happily ever after, a cautionary tale, ambiguous, or other?