In a typical story, the hero starts off with a character flaw, learns to overcome it, and then lives happily ever after. However in rare instances, the hero doesn’t change at all and remains the same from start to finish.
In most movies, the hero changes. The person the hero was at the beginning of the movie is far from the person at the end of the movie. In between the beginning and the end, the hero has learned something and changed.
However, some heroes do not change. WALL-E in “WALL-E” pretty much remains the same lovable goofball character from start to finish. Any James Bond movie rarely involves James Bond changing much at all. Watch classic Westerns like “Shane” or “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and the heroes never really change. If your hero doesn’t change, then your non-changing hero must change the lives of those around him or her.
Even a non-changing hero needs to pursue a goal, and non-changing heroes have both emotional and physical goals. Since non-changing heroes remain essentially the same person from start to finish, the change that occurs comes from the characters around the hero along with our own audience change in seeing what happens.
For example, WALL-E never changes in “WALL-E,” yet his actions have changed Eve, changed the lives of John and Mary (the human couple who fall in love after meeting WALL-E(, the lives of all the defective robots, the life of the starship captain, and even the lives of every robot WALL-E meets who goes from a boring, by-the-book worker to a happy waving robot.
Pick any James Bond movie and James Bond always remains cool, calm, and collected without a trace of self-doubt, pity, or confusion. In the bad James Bond movies, it’s all about mindless action but in the better James Bond movies, the characters around James Bond change. Often times the female love interest changes, such as in “The Spy Who Loved Me” where James Bond kills a Russian agent early in the movie and this agent’s lover vows to kill James Bond.
By the end of the movie, the agent’s lover falls in love with James Bond, so she changes from wanting to kill him to falling in love with him.
The non-changing hero tends to be a likable character from start to finish. Even if the hero doesn’t change, it’s important that the hero still have both a physical and an emotional goal such as WALL-E wanting to find love or even James Bond wanting to not just save the world, but also help his girlfriend in “For Your Eyes Only.”
In “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” Clint Eastwood’s character is motivated by a physical goal (find the treasure) but also an emotional goal (get revenge on his partner who almost killed him).
In most cases, a hero who changes is more appealing to an audience than a non-changing hero, but your hero must always remain likable with an emotional and a physical goal to pursue.