Every hero has an emotional dream. By achieving (or failing to achieve) this emotional dream, the hero changes into a better (or worse) person. This emotional change is what makes every story compelling.
While every hero has an emotional dream, he or she often has no idea how to achieve that dream. That’s where the Symbol of Hope comes in. The Symbol of Hope can be anything but whatever it is, it provides the hero with a physical, concrete path to achieving the emotional dream, even if the hero doesn’t realize this at first. By pursuing this Symbol of Hope, the hero can achieve his or her emotional dream.
In “Star Wars,” Luke wants an adventure, yet he has no specific plan or direction for achieving that adventure. What gives Luke a direction and focus is when Princess Leia comes into his life, which is his Symbol of Hope.
Every hero needs to pursue a Symbol of Hope. The basic structure of the Symbol of Hope goal looks like this:
- 15 minute – The villain inadvertently introduces the Symbol of Hope into the hero’s life
- 30 minutes – The hero leaps into a new world to follow the Symbol of Hope
- 45 minutes – The hero meets an ally who can help him or her get to the Symbol of Hope
- 60 minutes – The hero gets the Symbol of Hope (False Victory)
- 75 minutes – The villain threatens the Symbol of Hope, forcing the hero to protect it
- 90 minutes – The Symbol of Hope looks lost for good
- 105 minutes – The villain is on the verge of destroying the Symbol of Hope
- 120 minutes – The hero defeats the villain to save the Symbol of Hope
The Symbol of Hope provides the hero with a concrete, physical goal. Achieving this Symbol of Hope is how the hero achieves his or her emotional dream.
Study the structure of any good movie and you’ll find a Symbol of Hope provides a focus for the hero to follow a specific path, which will lead the hero towards achieving his or her emotional dream.
In “Star Wars,” this Symbol of Hope drives all of Luke’s actions as follows:
- 15 minute – Darth Vader inadvertently forces R2D2 into Luke’s life where Luke sees the hologram of Princess Leia
- 30 minutes – Luke decides to go with Obi-wan to deliver R2D2 to Princess Leia’s planet
- 45 minutes – Luke meets Hans, who can pilot a starship to Princess Leia’s planet
- 60 minutes – Luke arrives at Princess Leia’s planet (although it’s been blown up by Darth Vader)
- 75 minutes – Princess Leia is sentenced to be executed
- 90 minutes – Storm troopers block the way to the Millennium Falcon so Luke and Princess Leia appear trapped on the Death Star
- 105 minutes – The Death Star is on the verge of blowing up the rebel base with Princess Leia on it
- 120 minutes – Luke blows up the Death Star and saves Princess Leia
Notice that the pursuit of the Symbol of Hope is what drives the entire story? By pursuing and eventually achieving the Symbol of Hope, Luke achieves his emotional dream of getting an adventure. The Symbol of Hope provides the physical path for the hero to achieve the emotional dream.
In your own screenplay, define your hero’s emotional dream and then pick a Symbol of Hope that will allow your hero to achieve his or her emotional dream. By clearly identifying your hero’s Symbol of Hope, you’ll always have a rough guide for what should happen in your story next. Now all you have to do is provide the details.