But do not imagine because you are positive that you have thought everything out beforehand, and now have come to writing it down, that your job of thinking is ended. Not at all; there are a few things still to be thought out, while you are writing.
As in the monologue—because your material is made up of points—you may begin nearly anywhere to write your two-act. And like the monologue, you need not have a labored formal introduction.
Still, your introduction is no less comprehensively informing because it has not the air of formality. If your characters by their appearance stamp themselves for what they are, you may trust complete characterization—as you should in writing every form of stage material—to what each character does and says.
But in your very first line you should subtly tell the audience, so there cannot possibly be any mistake, what your subject is.
Why are those two men out there on the stage?
What is the reason for their attitude toward each ther?
If they are quarreling, why are they quarreling?
If they are laughing, why are they laughing?
But don’t make the mistake of trying to tell too much. To do that, would be to make your introduction draggy. You must make the audience think the characters are bright—precisely as the introduction of the monologue is designed to make the audience think the monologist is bright. Write your introduction in very short speeches. Show the attitude of the characters clearly and plainly, as the first speech of our two-act example shows the characters are quarreling:
Say, whenever we go out together you always
got a kick coming.
What’s the matter with you?
Then get into your subject-theme quickly after you have given the audience time to get acquainted and settled, with the memory of the preceding act dimmed in their minds by the giggle-points of your introduction.
The introduction of the two-act is designed to stamp the characters as real characters, to establish their relations to each other, to give the audience time to settle down to the new “turn,” to make them think the performers are “bright” and to delay the first big laugh until the psychological moment has come to spring the initial big point of the subject theme, after the act has “got” the audience.
It would seem needless to repeat what has already been stated so plainly in the chapters on the monologue, that no one can teach you how to write excruciatingly funny points and gags, and that no one can give you the power to originate laughter-compelling situations. You must rise or fall by the force of your own ability.
There are, however, two suggestions that can be given you for the production of a good two-act. One is a “don’t,” and the other a “do.” Don’t write your points in the form of questions and answers. The days of the “Why did the chicken cross the road?”—“Because she wanted to get on the other side” sort of two-act, is past. Write all your points in conversational style.