Screenplay Protagonists and Goals
Main Character = Hero
This is an excerpt from some notes we gave to a client. Although our notes are usually more specific than those below, this client needed a quick explanation of the hero and his or her role in your story. It's crucial info for any screenwriter... Enjoy!\
Your main character is always a hero. He is endeavouring to accomplish a difficult task for a noble reason, and he will encounter many obstacles and road blocks-- but the most serious difficulties will come from his own soul, which we all know is the hardest thing in our reality to change. Yet it must happen, or the hero will not win the prize.
This is the context for your screenplay, and for most screenplays. Even though it sounds grandiose, it works for comedies, too. Take “Anchorman.” For Ron Burgundy to become a national anchorman, he must be the best he can be, but he must also resolve the sexism that exists in his own soul, and deal with his rival/lover in a respectful way, as equals. Silly and goofy as hell, but the inner flaw, desire line and inciting incident are all there, and the character’s journey is painful and agonizing. His triumph is all the more exhilarating.
We talk a lot about the character’s arc. What does that mean? It means that your character goes from a flawed person to a less-flawed person. Your character begins with no knowledge of his inner flaw. He is confident in his ability to pursue the goal. He sets a plan in motion.
But the journey is more difficult than he anticipated, and it’s hitting him right where he’s weakest-- his inner flaw. Now he becomes aware of his weakness, and he begins to doubt himself. Perhaps he doesn’t want the goal that badly-- perhaps he can’t handle the journey. But then he becomes aware that if he abandons the journey, others will suffer. The desire line transforms from selfish to selfless. The support from others that love him transforms him into a true hero, and he is able to accomplish the goal, and help his loved ones.
Once again, the above arc is so common as to be inevitable, especially for commercial films. If your character is not going through a similar arc (and he’s not,) you’d better have a good reason why.