Every great movie is about watching and experiencing the hero changing. On the other hand, bad movies are often awful because the hero does not change. Watch a good James Bond movie like “Skyfall” and you’ll see James Bond struggling to deal with his aging skills and feeling like he’s no longer capable of performing as a secret agent. Then watch a bad James Bond movie like “A View to a Kill” where James Bond doesn’t have any emotional change whatsoever.
In every great movie, the hero must change, but how? It’s a simple four-step formula. First, establish the hero’s emotional dream. To make this emotional dream more personal, the main reason the hero can’t achieve his or her emotional dream is because of the hero’s own flaws.
For example, the hero in “Titanic” longs to be free, but she doesn’t trust herself to stand for what she wants. As a result, she feels suicide is the only way out of her life.
In “Die Hard,” the hero longs to get back with his wife, not realizing the reason he’s not back with his wife is his own arrogant attitude that constantly drives his wife away.
In “Coco,” the hero dreams about becoming a musician so he can feel loved and thinks he must leave his family to do it, not realizing his family is what he really needs to feel loved.
The first step to making your hero change is to identify both the emotional dream of that hero and the hero’s own character flaw that’s keeping him or her from reaching that dream.
The second step is to force the hero into a new world and is where the hero often deceives others by hiding his or her past life while taking on a new life. In this new world, the hero learns two lessons: by deceiving others, the hero learns that there’s another way to live and that the hero’s character flaw (that’s keeping him or her from the emotional dream) is exactly what’s helping the villain.
In “Titanic,” the hero learns that she can be free, but she also learns that the villain (her fiancé) is certain of what he wants and what he wants is to marry her and treat her like a possession. The deception is that the hero is still hiding her love for another man while her fiancé still thinks she’s going to marry him instead.
In “Die Hard,” the hero learns that he’s smart and arrogant enough to battle multiple terrorists, but the villain is also smart and arrogant too. The deception is that the hero is hiding his relationship to his wife, who the villain is holding hostage.
In “Coco,” the hero learns he has a chance to play music without his family but also meets the villain who sacrificed his own family and friends just for fame (although the hero doesn’t know this initially). The deception is that the hero is in the land of the dead but is still alive.
The third step for change is for the hero to realize his or her old way of life is no longer working. In “Titanic,” the sinking of the ocean liner forces the hero to realize she can’t go through life seeing another man while pretending to be the fiancé of the villain.
In “Die Hard,” the villain finally discovers the hero’s link to his wife.
In “Coco,” the hero finally learns that his relative isn’t the villain after all.
The fourth and final step to change is that the hero must be willing to risk everything to embrace a new way of life. By doing so, the hero defeats the villain. In “Titanic,” the hero is safely own a lifeboat when she decides to jump off it and rescue the man she really loves.
In “Die Hard,” the hero finally realizes his own arrogance kept him apart from his wife.
In “Coco,” the hero finally realizes he can use his music to help bring his family together.
So the four steps to change in a hero look like this:
- The hero has an emotional dream but is blocked through his or her own character flaw.
- The hero enters a new world and lives a dual life, deceiving others while learning about a new way to live and seeing how the hero’s own character flaw gives a villain strength.
- The hero’s deception is uncovered and the hero’s old way of life no longer works.
- The hero risks everything to embrace a new way to live that overcomes his or her character flaw.
Remember, people don’t change overnight. They need gradual, constant change to make their change believable.