When plotting the hero’s story, you can outline the entire story in two halves that show how the hero gradually changes. In a two hour movie, the first half of a story runs from the 0 to 60 minute mark and the second half of the story runs from the 60 to 120 minute mark.
Three crucial changes that occur between these two halves of a story are:
- Pursue Symbol of Hope -> Protect Symbol of Hope
- Deception -> Trouble
- Selfish -> Selfless
In the first half of a story, the hero pursues a Symbol of Hope until finally achieving it at the midpoint of the story. Then in the second half of the story, the hero must protect that Symbol of Hope from the villain, who’s trying to destroy it. Knowing how the Symbol of Hope shifts between the two halves of the story is crucial in plotting the action of the entire story.
In “Room,” the hero is trapped in a backyard prison built by the villain. When a rat appears in the prison, the hero realizes if ar at can get in, she can get out. The rat represents her Symbol of Hope, which is really her freedom.
The first half of the story involves the hero plotting with her son for him to escape and contact the police to rescue her. Finally, her plan succeeds and the police free her from her prison while arresting the villain. The hero has been pursuing her freedom and finally gets it.
Then the second half of the story involves the hero trying to adjust to life back in the real world. This means she must struggle to adapt and protect her freedom (Symbol of Hope). When guilt over raising a son in prison makes the hero feel like a failure, she tries to commit suicide, thereby nearly losing her freedom.
In addition to pursuing a Symbol of Hope in the first half of a story, the hero must simultaneously hold both a limiting belief and an empowering belief at the same time. On the outside, the hero looks like the empowering belief but on the inside, they’re still cling to the limiting belief.
That means in the first half of a story, the hero must often deceive others about who they really are. Then in the second half of the story, this deception gradually gets stripped away until the hero winds up with nothing due to clinging to both a limiting and empowering belief at the same time.
In “Tootsie,” the first half of the story is about a hero who lands a role on a soap opera as a woman, even though he’s actually a man. Now he must hide his true identity from everyone including the co-star who he loves.
In the second half of the story, the hero’s deception starts causing trouble. Sexist men try to harass the hero while he can’t show his love to his co-star because she thinks he’s a woman. The hero’s life reaches a breaking point when he has to decide if maintaining the deception is worth the cost of never being his true self who can love his co-star as a man.
As the hero pursues a Symbol of Hope in the first half of the story and relies on deception to do it, the hero also starts out selfish as well. Then in the second half of the story, the hero starts thinking less of themselves and more about others. Thus the hero gradually changes from being selfish to being selfless, which helps complete their transition into a better person.
In “Avatar,” the first half of the story is about the hero just wants to earn enough money to pay for surgery that will give him back the ability to walk again. In the second half of the story, the hero no longer cares just about himself, but also about the fate of the aliens he’s befriended. Thus the hero gradually transitions from thinking selfishly to thinking selflessly.
By understanding how these two halves of a story gradually show the change in the hero, you can outline the broader details of your story.