Putting Your Hero in the Belly of the Beast

The midpoint of most screenplays occurs when the hero seemingly appears to have succeeded. In “Star Wars,” this midpoint success occurs when Luke finally blasts off his planet in the Millennium Falcon. In “Die Hard,” this midpoint success occurs when John McClane finally alerts the police to the terrorists in the skyscraper.

Immediately after this midpoint occurs, things go downhill for the hero quickly. The first major drawback occurs when the villain pursues a mini-goal and the hero is barely able to foil it. This occurs in “Star Wars” when Luke rescues Princess Leia, thereby preventing her from being executed. In “Die Hard,” this occurs when John McClane helps save the SWAT team after the villain nearly kills all of them.

After the hero foils the villain’s mini-goal, that’s when the hero winds up in the belly of the beast. That means the hero faces his or her greatest challenge prior to the climax of the movie at the end. This belly of the beast moment occurs when the hero must face his or her greatest weaknesses and often barely passes it, but emerges stronger as a result.

This belly of the beast moment occurs when the villain nearly defeats the hero. In “Star Wars,” Luke is trapped in a garbage compactor and when he gets out of that, he’s attacked by storm troopers who are trying to keep him from escaping from the Death Star.

In “Die Hard,” John McClane finally meets the villain face to face, although he doesn’t know it at the moment. Then he barely escapes from the villain although the villain shoots out the glass that seriously wounds John McClane’s bare feet.

When plotting out your story, look at the halfway mark as the high water mark for your hero. This is where success seems to have been reached. Because the villain still exists, this false victory can’t last as the villain slowly takes control.

Immediately, the villain pursues a mini-goal that the hero foils (typically from the 60 – 75 minute mark). Then the belly of the beast moment occurs (from the 75 – 90 minute mark) where the villain nearly defeats the hero.

The belly of the beast moment is where the hero is tested the most up until this point. All appears lost because the villain appears victorious, and then Act III occurs when the hero fights the villain.

Make sure the belly of the beast moment in your screenplay is the moment where your hero is tested the strongest and barely survives. This low point is necessary to contrast with Act III where the hero finally defeats the villain once and for all.

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