The Evolution of the Hero Using Deception

Your hero must change. Without change, your story will feel flat and dull. Think of bad James Bond movies like “Die Another Day” or “A View to a Kill” and you can see that James Bond doesn’t change. As a result, the story is rather boring. Now think of good James Bond movies like “Skyfall” or “Goldfinger” and you can see that when you make your hero change, you have to also make your hero vulnerable so he or she becomes a stronger person in the end.

The way the hero changes looks like this:

  • Act I – The hero is stuck in a dead end life
  • Act IIa – The hero enters a new world but still retains his or her old way of life
  • Act IIb – The hero’s fortunes steadily decline partially because he or she still retains an old way of life
  • Act III – The hero dumps the old way of life and becomes a better person

In Act I, we first meet the hero. That’s when we see the hero stuck in a dead end world of his or her own making. By the end of Act I, the hero has started to search for a new way to live and that drives the hero to leap into a new world in Act IIa.

What makes Act IIa interesting is that the hero often relies on deception. This deception lets the hero act like a changed person but still retain the old way of life. In Act IIa, the hero deceives others with this duality.

  • “Tootsie” – The hero is a man but pretending to be a woman
  • “Big” – The hero is a boy but trapped in a man’s body
  • “Avatar” – The hero is a human running around in an alien body
  • “Titanic” – The hero pretends to go along with marriage to a man she doesn’t love
  • “Back to the Future” – The hero pretends to be an ordinary teenager even though he’s from the future
  • “Tangled” – The hero thinks she’s an ordinary person but doesn’t know she’s actually a princess
  • “Planet of the Apes” (1968 version) – The hero is an astronaut pretending to be an ordinary native on a planet run by intelligent apes
  • “Spdier-Man: Homecoming” – The hero is a superhero but hides this from his friends and family

What happens in Act IIb is that the hero must work at covering up this deception until he or she realizes that life can never get better until he or she gives up this deception. In “Tootsie,” the hero realizes that he has to stop pretending to be a woman to finally fall in love with the woman he truly loves. In “Big,” the hero realizes he can’t stay as a man but must go back to being a boy again. In “Avatar,” the hero realizes that he has more in common with the alien race than with the human race.

Act IIa is about deceiving others. Act IIb is about the hero realizing he or she can no longer keep up this deception any longer. Then in Act III, the hero must change by exposing this deception. In “Tootsie,” this occurs when the hero reveals he’s actually a man pretending to be a woman. In “Big,” this occurs when the hero wishes to be changed back into a boy again. In “Avatar,” this occurs when the hero fights for the aliens and ultimately has his soul transferred into the alien body for good.

The structure of deception looks like this:

  • Act I – The hero is stuck in a dead end life
  • Act IIa – Through deception, the hero achieves success
  • Act IIb – The hero realizes he or she can’t keep up this deception any longer
  • Act III – The hero dumps this deception and changes into a better person

Deception is crucial in helping the hero change. Use deception because it creates tension since we all know the hero’s deception must be discovered eventually, and when that happens, the hero’s life will fall apart. then the hero must become a better person by changing, and change is what every story is really all about.

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