Initially, the hero and villain have no idea the other person even exists. To bring the two of them together, the villain must introduce something into the hero’s life. This person or object comes from the villain and appears in the hero’s life. Now the hero has a goal to pursue and this pursuit of a goal brings the hero into direct conflict with the villain.
What the villain introduces into the hero’s life is a Symbol of Hope. This Symbol of Hope disrupts the hero’s life and brings the hero closer to the villain although the hero initially doesn’t know this. The key is that the Symbol of Hope must come from the villain and must offer the hero a chance to achieve his or her dream.
In “WALL-E,” WALL-E’s dream is to find someone to love. Then his Symbol of Hope appears, which is a plant. Although WALL-E (and the audience) doesn’t initially know the importance of this plant, it turns out that the villain is looking for plant life on Earth so it can destroy it and hide any evidence that the human race can come back to Earth once more.
So although the villain doesn’t directly send the plant to WALL-E, the plant creates the conflict between WALL-E and the villain. Specifically, WALL-E wants to save the plant and the villain wants to destroy it.
In “Star Wars,” Darth Vader indirectly sends R2D2 into Luke’s life when Luke accidentally sees the hologram of Princess Leia. Now he’s fascinated by Princess Leia because he wants to save her and Darth Vader wants to kill her. That sets up the inevitable conflict between the hero and villain.
In “Room,” the hero is a woman imprisoned in a garden shed by the villain who has kidnapped her. Her Symbol of Hope appears when she spots a rat in her prison. That immediately makes her think that if a rat could get in, that means it’s possible for her to get out. This puts her on an inevitable conflict with the villain who wants to keep her imprisoned forever.
By the 15 minute mark (roughly halfway in Act I), the Symbol of Hope appears in the hero’s life. By the 30 minute mark, which defines the end of Act I, the hero decides to pursue this Symbol of Hope goal into a new, unfamiliar world.
In “WALL-E,” WALL-E keeps trying to revive Eve so she can fall in love with him.
In “Star Wars,” Luke decides to leave his uncle’s farm and go with Obi-wan.
In “Room,” the hero decides to create a plan to escape her prison.
The Symbol of Hope serves two purposes in Act I:
- At the 15 minute mark, the villain indirectly sends the Symbol of Hope into the hero’s life
- At the 30 minute mark (the end of Act I), the hero decides to pursue the symbol of Hope into a strange, new world
Make sure your story has a Symbol of Hope that comes from the villain. Generally, the villain indirectly sends the Symbol of Hope into the hero’s life because the villain has no idea who the hero is. Then the hero realizes that if he or she pursues this Symbol of Hope, he or she will achieve a long desired dream, and this will eventually put the hero into conflict with the villain.