Every story is about change. Your hero isn’t the only who changes. The hero’s actions always change everyone around him or her.
Every story is about change. Most of the time, the hero changes. In “The Godfather,” Al Pacino changes from an outsider to the godfather of the family. In other movies like “WALL-E,” WALL-E doesn’t really change but everyone around him does. WALL-E is like the Peter Sellers character in “Being There” or Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump” who blissfully stumbles through life while changing the lives of everyone he meets.
In most cases, the hero changes and learns something, and so do we as an audience. In “Terminator 2,” the moment when the Terminator lowers himself into the molten bath and sacrifices himself for the human race helps the characters and the audience realize the importance of human life.
In bad movies, only the hero recognizes the change while the audience just stares in boredom and disinterest. In good movies, the audience feels, not just learns, the moment of revelation along with the character.
The hero usually starts to change at the midpoint of the story. Up until that midpoint, the hero is stumbling along and actually succeeding, but then achieves a False Victory that still doesn’t solve all of his problems.
In “Big,” Tom Hanks has achieved his goal of working in a toy company and winning the girl. Up until this point, he hasn’t really had to change other than adapt to his circumstances. From the midpoint to the end of the movie, Tom Hanks slowly learns that he can no longer be a little kid in a grown up body. Tom Hanks changes from a little boy to a wiser man.
In “Up,” the old man has finally achieved his goal of getting his home to the waterfalls, but that’s his False Victory. From the midpoint to the end, the old man gradually learns that he can’t live in the past but has a future living a new chapter in his life. The old man changes from pessimistic about life to optimistic.
In “My Fair Lady,” Eliza has finally learned to speak properly, but from the midpoint to the end, she learns that she’s now a different person and has to consider her future. Eliza changes from being poor flower girl to being a lady and learning what being a lady really means.
The basic structure of a screenplay involves the hero getting a chance to live his or her dreams right up to the midpoint. From the midpoint to the end, the hero changes for the better or sometimes for the worse as Al Pacino did in “The Godfather.”
Without change, you have no story. A story is a journey and that journey must take us somewhere. If your story doesn’t change, then there’s no point in telling that story.