Nothing should happen to the hero by chance unless it’s disaster. To keep the story moving forward, the hero must always be responsible for taking action that causes something else to happen. In the above scene from “A Clockwork Orange,” a government official is touring a prison to look for test subjects for a new experimental program to make people fit for society again. In the book, the hero has attacked a fellow inmate so his violent behavior catches the eye of the government official who reads his transcript. However, this is visually boring, so the movie version has the government official strolling among prisoners when the hero blurts out and speaks.
This action alone keeps the hero active, not passive. Your hero has to make things happen. In this case, the hero’s simple act of speaking up is enough to get him noticed by the government official, who decides that he would be a perfect test subject for the program.
In every good movie, the hero must be active in making things happen. In “Frozen,” the hero first wants to get married and get her sister’s blessing. When her sister flees, she follows in an attempt to bring her back home. At all times, the hero is the one making the major decisions that keep the story moving forward.
The hero must never be passive and let things happen to him. Think of James Bond or Indiana Jones. Both of these heroes are always pursuing a goal to keep the story going. The goal could be something simple, like finding a treasure, but the hero is always pursuing a goal.
In the above scene from “A Clockwork Orange,” the hero had earlier heard of this experiment program that supposedly converts bad people into good ones, and wants to know how to go through it so he can get out of prison. Later when he learns that the government official will visit the prison to look for a test subject, that’s when the hero takes the initiative and speaks up. Even this seemingly minor action is important because it separates the hero from the other prisoners and gets him noticed. That in turn sets the story forward into the next scene where he learns what this experimental program is and how it works.
After the hero gets through this program and gets released, he still has a goal, which is to go back home. That’s when his parents are shocked to see him and have already rented out his room to a tenant. With nowhere else to go, the hero stumbles around until he faces all the people he tormented when he was in a gang. Finally, the hero eventually stumbles his way back to the home where he raped a man’s wife and suddenly finds himself the victim.
The lesson is to keep your hero active. Your hero must always be pursuing a goal and you hero must always take the action necessary to keep the story moving forward. If the hero doesn’t take the action to move the story forward, you either are focusing on the wrong character or you need to give your hero a more active role in defining the story. Your hero creates everything through his actions. Without the hero taking action (and responding to the villain), there’s no forward movement in your story no matter what else might be happening. Your story can only move forward when your hero makes decisions and acts on them.