The best stories are those that move us emotionally, and the only way that can happen is if the hero changes emotionally. If the hero does not change in any meaningful way, then the story will feel flat no matter how much fighting, gunfire, explosions, or special effects the story crams in every scene.
Watch “Atomic Blonde” to see an example of lots of action but little emotion. The hero is a blonde spy back in the days of the Cold War and we know little about her life. By the end of the story, we still know little about her so ultimately, we don’t care about her entire story or the entire movie. It’s an interesting movie but utterly forgettable the second you’re done watching it. Other than watching the action, it’s an emotionally empty story.
Now watch “Wonder Woman” and you’ll see a far different story. Wonder Woman starts out as naive but caring. She wants to save the world and she thinks she can do this by killing Ares, the god of war. Eventually she does get to do this, but along the way she learns to love and she learns to risk her own life to help those less fortunate such as the time when she charges across no-man’s land to face German machine guns just to rescue a village.
In “Wonder Woman,” the hero grows from a naive woman to a caring woman who has experienced love. In “Atomic Blonde,” the hero is a tough spy who starts out tough and ends up tough with no emotional change whatsoever. Not surprisingly, “Atomic Blonde” is far less interesting than “Wonder Woman.”
“Baby Driver” is another movie where the hero changes from dealing with a traumatic event from the past when his parents argued in a car and got themselves killed in an accident. Then the hero finds love and risks his life to save and protect the girl he loves.
Stories are not about plot but about people becoming heroes in their own world. It doesn’t have to her as dramatic as a woman learning to become a superhero. It can be as simple as a man willing to take a stand to protect the woman he loves in the movie “Loving,” which is about a white man who marries a black woman in the segregated South of the 50’s.
Before trying to create an intricate plot, start by defining your hero and how your hero will become a hero by the end of the tory. Once you know what your hero becomes in the end, you can then worry about making up a plot to change your hero throughout your story.