Watch most James Bond movies and Q, the gadget making genius of the British Secret Service, always comes up with some odd device that ultimately saves James Bond. This formula actually forms the basic framework for how a mentor helps save a hero in most stories.
The flaw with most James Bond movies is that the James Bond doesn’t have a flaw, so there’s no emotional change in the end. “Skyfall” was a pleasant exception by making James Bond dealing with his growing age and everyone’s reaction to him as an aging relic who’s slowly losing his skills. In most stories, the hero has a flaw and a mentor appears to give that hero an emotional lesson that saves him or her in the end. This is no different than Q giving James Bond a gadget that saves his life in the end. The only difference is that James Bond rarely changes emotionally and relies on gadgets rather than changing his behavior due to learning a lesson.
In “Star Wars,” Luke learns to trust the Force, which helps him destroy the Death Star. In “Terminator 2,” the good Terminator learns why humans cry and learns to respect human life, which helps him protect John Connor throughout the movie. In “Thelma and Louise,” both women learn how to experience true freedom in their lives, which helps them to triumph in the end despite their decision.
When creating your own story, think of James Bond and Q. What will your hero learn or get from a mentor that will ultimately help the hero win in the end? There are several ways to think of what your hero needs to learn.
First, your hero is the good version of the villain. So ask yourself what fatal flaw is causing your villain to be so mean? In “Die Hard,” that fatal flaw could be selfishness, which could also be a flaw in John McClane as he’s unwilling to accept his wife’s high-level job in Los Angeles. Look at what makes your villain evil and that’s the fatal flaw your hero needs to overcome.
Second, look at how your hero digs himself into a dead end world. The hero’s fatal flaw causes her to be stuck in a dead end world. In “Thelma and Louise,” both women allow men to rule their lives so that’s the fatal flaw they need to overcome to truly be free.
James Bond can get himself out of tough situations through unusual gadgets, but your hero typically needs to overcome a fatal flaw to succeed. Just decide what that flaw might be and then you’ll know what your hero needs to overcome that flaw.