Text of STORY STRUCTURE 7 steps to character transformation
7 steps tocharacter
The seven steps…exist in the story
[They are] the foundation of your success as a storyteller because they are based on
human action. They are the steps any human being
must work through to solve a life problem.
from The Anatomy of Story
by John Truby. NY: Faber and Faber: 2007
1: WEAKNESS & NEED
From the start, your hero has one or more weaknesses holding her back. Something is missing within her that is affecting her life.
The need is what the hero must fulfill within herself in order to have a better life. It usually involves overcoming her weaknesses and changing, or growing, in some way.
Your hero should not be aware of her need at the beginning of the story.
If she already knows what she needs, the story is over.
Give your hero a moral need as well as a psychological need.
psychological need = flaw hurts only the hero
moral need = flaw hurts others
a moral need keeps her from being perfect or being a victim
The problem is the crisis the hero finds herself in from page one.
Keep the problem simple and specific.
Begin with hero already in trouble, but not knowing how to solve it.
2: DESIRE / GOAL
A story doesn’t become interesting to the audience until the desire comes into play. Desire is the driving force in the
story, the line from which everything else hangs.
The hero's goal is what drives the story. Once the hero has her desire, she moves in a direction,
taking actions to reach her goal. The goal should not be the same as the hero's need.
Your hero’s desire is what she wants in this story, not what she wants in life.
An antagonist who fights the hero and tries to prevent her from reaching the goal is another important element. A true opponent not only wants to prevent the hero from achieving her desire but is competing with the hero for the same goal.
The trick to creating an opponent who wants the same goal as the hero is to find the deepest level of conflict between them. That must be the focus of your story.
The relationship between hero and opponent is the most important relationship in your story. To find the right opponent, start with your hero’s specific goal; whoever wants to keep her from getting it is an opponent.
Use the structure to explore the character and how that character is going to undergo a deep
change by the end of the story.
Start at that end point and then work backwards.
If you don't know that character change end point in the early part of the writing process you
will run into a dead end.
7: A NEW LEVEL
Everything returns to normal, desire is satisfied, yet with one major difference.
A fundamental and permanent change has occurred in the hero.
If the self-revelation is positive — the hero realizes something about herself or learns how to live in the world — she moves to
a higher level.
If the hero has a negative revelation — while learning she has committed a crime that expresses a corrupt personal flaw — or
is incapable of having a self-revelation, the hero falls or is destroyed.
The battle is intense and painful for the hero, causing her to have a major revelation about who she really is.
Self-revelation is connected to need.
Need begins your hero’s character change, it marks the hero’s immaturity at the beginning of the story.
Self-revelation is the moment when the hero grows as a human being (unless the knowledge is so painful it destroys her). It is what she learns, what she gains,
what allows her to live her life more fully.
In a psychological self-revelation, the hero sees herself honestly for the first time. This is the most difficult, or the most courageous act the hero performs in the entire story.
If you have given your hero a moral need, create a moral self-revelation, too. The hero doesn’t just see herself in a new light; she has an insight about an ethical way to act toward others. In effect, the hero realizes that she has been wrong, that she has hurt others, and that she must change. She then proves she has changed by taking new moral action.
5: THE BATTLE
Throughout the middle of the story, the hero and opponent engage in punch and counterpunch as
each tries to win the goal – metaphorically and/or literally.
The conflict heats up.
The final battle may be a conflict of actions or a conflict of words.
4: THE PLAN
Dictates action; strategies the hero will use to beat opponent and reach goal. Organically linked to both desire and opponent, the plan should always focus on defeating the opponent and reaching the goal.
The plan requires the hero to make a choice, show that choice by actions, and those actions must have consequences – cause and effect.
The plan has several steps for action:
the hero is confronted with a challenge (desire / goal)
is forced to accept it – recognizes weakness.
confronts challenge – only to be defeated – role of antagonist
the hero makes a “leap of faith” (MID POINT) – begin to change or recognize something about themselves.
It is important that the steps “take place” in the context of the story – that's what makes it a story. But it isn't necessary to show each step. It is enough to simply mention or imply them.
YOUR SCRIPT: PILOT EPISODEConsidering the short length of your script,
your story may only be the first few steps of the character transformation:
Introduce the protagonist (their weakness, need and desire) and antagonist.
Begin the plan of action: where the hero confronts their goal, rejects it, but then is forced to accept it (overcoming their fear).
Your hero and her opponent may not have their final battle or a self-revelation; that will happen later in the series. You simply must make sure that the major conflict has been established – that your character's desires are clear and that she is willing to hold on to and if necessary fight for them.
Don't make the story easy on your protagonist, force them to change by confronting their weakness.
On a final note, we need to acknowledge that too few films have female protagonists – the majority of films are from the male perspective. This often results in female characters being developed for the satisfaction of male desires. Sexism is deeply engrained in our culture.
You are encouraged to create female protagonists – with weaknesses, needs and goals developed from a woman's perspective.