The Hero’s Lesson

Every story is a learning process for the hero. The point of every story is for the hero (and the audience) to learn something important about life. Without this ah-ha moment, your story risks feeling flat.

At the simplest level, every story is a lesson in disguise. People tell stories to illustrate a point and movies (or plays and novels) are no different. Stories aren’t meant just to entertain you but to teach you something about life itself, although this lesson is often minimized so it’s not an earth-shattering experience that hits us over the head with its obviousness.

In “Up,” this revelatory lesson is when the old man realizes that life is meant for further adventures, not for mourning the past.

In “WALL-E,” this revelatory lesson is when Eve discovers that WALL-E really cared for her after she reviews film footage of WALL-E trying to protect her after she went dormant upon capturing the plant.

In “Groundhog’s Day,” Bill Murray finally learns the meaning of love as he changes from being a selfish man to a loving one through his endless experiences repeating Groundhog’s Day over and over again.

This revelation of the hero cements the hero’s change. Every hero must change over the course of the story and this self-revelatory moment signals the hero’s rebirth, which usually appears at the lowest point of the story where the hero appears defeated.

When all appears lost, the hero suddenly reaches a conclusion. In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart reaches the negative conclusion that he’s worth more dead than alive. This revelatory conclusion occurs right at the start of Act III and gives the hero the push to do battle in Act III.

If you don’t know what your hero will learn at the start of Act III, your story is incomplete. Your hero must change throughout the course of the story and the beginning of Act III is where he reaches a conclusion. Without this conclusion, your hero might not really appear to change and without change, you have a dull story.

Every story is about change and every story is about making a point and teaching us a lesson through the hero’s self-revelation. Your hero’s revelation is how the hero and the audience reach a conclusion and change from the beginning of the story to the end.

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