Every story needs conflict and the best way to create conflict is to throw the hero in the worst possible situation. That automatically creates tension and action through conflict because the hero now can’t avoid it.
In “Tootsie,” the hero treats women poorly. So when he dresses up as a woman and gets a job on a soap opera, he’s trapped in his deception as a woman where other male actors treat him poorly because they think he’s a woman. That’s he worst possible situation he can find himself in, which forces him to change his beliefs on how to treat a woman, which is his living hell.
In “Groundhog Day,” the hero is arrogant but is falling in love with his co-worker. However, no matter how hard he tries, he can’t win her affection. Even when he does win her friendship, he’s saddened to discover that she doesn’t remember it the next day. His living hell is being trapped reliving the same day over and over again to face himself for eternity.
Initially, this living hell may seem attractive. In “Tootsie,” the hero has boasted that he’s a great actor and he’s proven it by fooling everyone he’s a woman. Then he becomes one of the more popular characters on the soap opera. Initially, life looks great, but there’s always a catch and that ironic catch is that he falls in love with his co-star but she won’t love him in return because she thinks he’s a woman.
In “Groundhog Day,” the ironic catch is that even after the hero finally wins over the affection of his co-worker, she will never remember it the next day.
Think of the hero’s greatest weakness and that’s the hot button you need to push in your character. In the movie “X,” a group of people are filming a porn movie in a house on a farm. However, when the owner discovers what his renters are doing, he and his wife proceed to kill them all, one by one.
However what makes “X” better than just a mindless horror film is that the hero is the runaway daughter of a conservative TV evangelist, and she’s the star in the porn film. The elderly couple that’s killing all the people are also deeply religious. So now the hero is forced to deal with the disapproval of another religious elderly man.
Even worse, the elderly woman envies the hero’s youth, young body, and sexuality. Not surprisingly, the same actress plays the young porn star and the elderly woman. Thus the elderly woman is the embodiment of the young hero. Where the young hero expresses herself sexually freely in the porn film, the elderly woman is sexually frustrated because her elderly husband is too afraid to have sex in case his heart can’t take it.
Thus the hero isn’t just facing a villain who wants to kill her for no reason. She’s also facing the religious disapproval that she wanted to escape from in her father, and she has to deal with the frustrated sexuality of the elderly woman. This creates a deeper living hell for the hero.
Put your hero in a great situation that turns into a living hell. That’s when you can create a far more engaging and interesting story loaded with plenty of conflict that’s physical, mental, and emotional.