The most interesting stories involve changing your hero’s situation and character. In the beginning of your story, your hero is stuck in a dead end life. By the end of your story, your hero has changed to not only be a better person, but in a better situation than the beginning. In “Spy,” the hero is stuck as a laughingstock of the CIA (situation) and thinks of herself as someone who will never do anything or be anyone special (character). By the end of the movie, the hero has stopped a terrorist from getting a nuclear bomb so she’s now considered an equal among the CIA workers (situation) and she’s amazed herself by being smarter and more resourceful than she thought she could ever be (character).
When your hero changes situation and character, you’ll probably have an interesting story. If your hero doesn’t change situation or character, you’ll have a flat, dull story. Think of all those bad James Bond movies where James Bond starts out as a suave, confident secret agent and by the end of the story, he hasn’t changed one bit. That’s usually the recipe for disaster. Yet in “Skyfall,” James Bond is an aging secret agent who may be washed up. By the end of the story, he’s proven he’s still capable despite his age.
Study classic movies and you’ll see that the hero always changes situation and character. In “The Shawshank Redemption,” the hero is sent to prison (situation) where he seems like a weak victim who lets life happen to him (character). By the end of the story, he has found a clever way to escape prison and get back at the evil prison warden (situation) while also proving to himself and his friend that you can be free (character).
Even in an action thriller like “Die Hard” you can see how the hero changes. In the beginning he’s arrogant (character) and separated from his wife (situation). By the end he’s reunited with his wife (situation) and understands how own character flaw in now appreciating his wife (character).
If only your hero’s situation changes, you’ll have a static hero who simply follows mindless plots like a bad James Bond movie where James Bond overcomes various obstacles for no reason. If only your hero’s character changes, you’ll have a boring story since the hero will still be stuck in the same place.
In “Moonstruck,” the hero changes character by falling in love with another man, but also changes her situation by declaring her love for the other man to her family. Even though she’s physically in the same situation, she’s still in a far better mental state. Instead of just feeling like she has to marry because she has to, now she wants to marry for love.
When you define the plot of your screenplay, make sure your hero’s character and situation both change. You’ll still need to create a logical and interesting plot to get your hero to change, but making sure your hero changes is the first step to creating a great story.