Make the Hero Choose Between Temptation Over Dreams

Every hero wants a goal. The question is what price is the hero willing to pay? That price leads the hero to make a difficult choice between a short-term temptation vs. a chance for achieving a dream. By forcing your hero to choose, you create greater tension in your story.

In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey wants to be somebody instead of being poor and stuck in a little town going nowhere. Near the end of the story, the villain, Mr. Potter, offers George a lucrative job working for him. The catch is that he’ll have to give up the Savings & Loan, which is the only thing stopping Mr. Potter from taking over the town.

So George has a dilemma. He can take the well-paying job and let the town (and all his friends) fend for themselves and likely lose. Or he can turn down the well-paying job and embrace the uncertainty that he’ll ever be rich and do something with his life.

What would you do?

This impossible dilemma between temptation and a dream basically boils down to Selfishness vs. Selflessness. In other words, the hero can be selfish or care about others.

In “The Proposal,” the hero is a woman who pretends she’s engaged to her assistant so she can avoid being deported. Near the end, she’s about to get married in a sham wedding. Her temptation is to go through with the wedding and stay in America (selfish).

However, she realizes that she can’t get married based on a lie that will hurt others, so she admits her deception and allows herself to be deported.

This impossible dilemma is a choice between good and evil. The temptation is to be selfish. The harder choice is to abandon their dream with no promise of future success.

In “Casablanca,” Rick is given a choice near the end where he can take the letters of transit for himself and Ilsa, the woman he loves, or give the letters of transit to Ilsa and her husband who is crucial to fighting against the Nazis.

Always back your hero into a corner where they’re forced to choose between selfishness vs. selflessness. This creates greater drama and lets us see once and for all who the hero really is when they choose (hopefully) to be selfless.

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