When I was looking at the promo pics for NBC’s new show SMASH, this one jumped out at me. Ivy, the blonde on the second tier, is the girl picked to play Marilyn Monroe in the play. Yet there’s Karen, the newbie from Iowa, at the top of the heap. Hmmmm—I’m thinking Ivy may be heading for a fall.


This show is deep into what I would call ZONE 2 of a story. I divide a three-part story into four parts by splitting Act 2 into halves. ZONE 2 is the second approximate 1/4th of the story. It starts right after the First Plot Point when the hero/heroine are flung into the exotic world.


SMASH’s exotic world is the creation of a Broadway musical and I discussed that in detail in part 1 of this series.


The protagonist in ZONE 2 behaves as the mythic archetype: The Wander.


The Wanderer has a Quest, a purpose, but not much of a clue as to how to go about reaching his or her goal at this stage of the story. One of the missions of ZONE 2 is to allow the Hero/Heroine to learn about, find, and name his or her own truth.


Our Heroine(s) redefines her identity.

Ivy has been thrust into the role of STAR. She’s had plenty of experience in the Chorus and has the musical and dancing chops to BE Marilyn.Her struggle is with self-confidence.

Did Derek the director pick me because I’m good or because we’re sleeping together?

Do I really have the talent to be THE STAR?


Karen should have an easier road in this exotic world. She doesn’t get the part, but she has tasted the exhilaration of being considered. She is asked to be a part of the ensemble (fancy word for chorus) and we learn this is the first major production she’s been a part of.

Karen has to contend with the hostility of other cast members that are friends of Ivy and see her as some Midwest interloper in their special world.

Karen taking a passed off job to sing at a Bar Mitzvah is a totally fish-out-of-water situation. The job was originally Ivy’s and had been given to another member of the ensemble and then passed to Karen. The twist being Karen sings an awesome final song and is seen by a big music producer and is asked to call him. Great stories have both ups and downs for the characters. This up for Karen had a stab-in-the-back feel for Ivy.  


Another Mission of the Wanderer in ZONE 2 is Separation from who she was and launching into who she needs to be.

This is the challenge for both Ivy and Karen.

Karen has to shed that newbie reputation and emerge as a skilled performer that CAN BE A STAR.

Ivy has to BE THE STAR.


Debra Messing’s Julia, the lyricist and writer, is thrown a curve ball, when an old flame is cast as Joe DiMaggio. She and Michael had a torrid affair during the last play they worked on together. He’s now married and has a baby. She never told her husband and wants to keep that secret.

Julia is forced by Michael’s advances to define what she wants her family life to be. Tom, her writing partner, warns her of the perilous position she’s putting herself in. A hot kiss on the sidewalk with her son looking on from his window leaves us anxious awaiting the consequences of her careless, weakness.


Angelica Houston’s Eileen has no luck finding funding with her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s cronies. She is forced to sell her prized Degas to get the money to put on the workshop. That will give her a little time to continue searching for a backer.

ZONE 2 of your story is all about challenging your protagonist. In a great story, finding ways to challenge the secondary characters too.

Think about all the facets of your protagonist’s life: including Family, Friends, Work, Community, Love, and Spiritual.


April’s Story Structure Safari class is about to begin at Margie Lawson Writer’s Academy. Come join me on an excursion to power up YOUR story.