Here’s a quick way to judge good and bad movies. In a bad movie, there’s no emotional change. There might be plenty of physical action but the hero mostly remains the same as he or she was at the beginning. In a good movie, there’s physical and emotional change. Physically, the hero is in a different place in life, usually a better place. Emotionally, the hero (and the audience) has changed and learned a better way to live.
In “Spiderman: Homecoming,” Spiderman changes in two ways. Emotionally, he begins the story wanting to make a difference by constantly pestering Iron Man to help out, but his messages just seem to get ignored and he feels frustrated as a result. Yet by the end, he’s gained the respect of Iron Man and sees how he’s made a difference that he’s always craved. Physically, he’s gone from just being someone who can help Iron Man to gaining recognition for being helpful on his own. Spiderman’s life changes both physically and emotionally for the better.
In “Wonder Woman,” Wonder Woman physically begins the story isolated on an island where she’s supposed to stay out of trouble. By the end of the story, she’s learned to help others by defeating Ares to save the human race. Emotionally, Wonder Woman goes through the most dramatic change where she begins being naive, but by the end, she learns to take responsibility to stop evil herself.
In both of these superhero movies, the hero goes through drastic emotional and physical change and that’s what makes both of these movies so compelling and interesting. Every story needs a dramatic physical change. Every romantic comedy begins with the hero single and alone, but ends with the hero finding true love. That’s the physical change, but what’s more important is how the hero also changes emotionally.
In “The Proposal,” the hero learns to value family relationships and not try to deceive people any more. In “Sleepless in Seattle,” the hero learns to trust his gut and find true love no matter what the risk may be. Even in “Die Hard,” the hero learns to realize he truly values his relationship with his wife and blames himself for their recent break up.
Now look at bad movies and you’ll find they often lack a dramatic emotional change. In bad James Bond movies, James Bond doesn’t change from beginning to the end. He’s simply the same person, the tough, dashing guy. However, the better James Bond movies shows James Bond changing. In “Skyfall,” James Bond begins the story feeling as if he’s past his prime. By the end, he’s learned that he’s still capable of doing his job despite his age.
When you being any story of your own, first identify the dramatic physical and emotional change your hero goes through. The hero needs to go from a physically dull life to a physically more exciting life. The hero must also go from an emotionally bankrupt life to an emotionally fulfilling life. Identify a clear physical and emotional change and you’ll go a long way towards writing a great story.