Plot Structure Filling the Emotional Void

Plot Structure: Filling the Emotional Void

When offered the prize, the hero must decide whether or not to take it. The important thing about this decision is that the hero gains something from having made it. Even more crucial, the choice demands that he gives something up. It’s not much of a contest if you asked him, “Would you like a million dollars?”   It is, though, if you said, “Here’s a million dollars. Should you accept, you will never see your child again.”  The choice must involve loss. When it does, the hero’s decision, made with ownership, is life-altering.

In making the decision, a void is filled in the hero’s life. The hole had resulted from an unmet need in his past. Something happened to him before the story began, leaving him incomplete. Perhaps he was injured, rejected, scarred in some way. As a result, he possesses an inability or suffers some lack. This, the protagonist’s inner need or internal goal, while he may be unaware of it, is the crux of the emotional development plot line that will run throughout the story.  It should reflect the story’s theme, thereby giving the story thematic significance when he makes the decision to attain the prize and the hole becomes filled.

  1. What is your hero’s wound? The hero has a wound or source of pain from his past that he hasn’t entirely (or ever) dealt with.
  2. What is your hero’s false belief? Because of the hero’s wound he has a distorted understanding of life or some aspect of it that, in effect, reflects a distorted belief about himself. In Goodwill Hunting, Will believes that he’s worthless.  In Titanic, Rose believes that she won’t survive without a rich man to take care of her.  In Brokeback Mountain, Ennis believes that he will die if he lives as his authentic self. The hero’s wound has created a façade or false identity that he hides behind to protect himself.
  3. How does the hero’s false identity conflict with his true self? The pull between the desire to maintain the status quo of the hero’s false identity and the need to become his true self, brought about by the events of the story, should provide a current of conflict along his emotional development plot line.
  4. What is your hero’s true self? When the hole is filled by the hero’s ultimate decision, the false identity falls away, or at least begins to crumble, and the hero emerges more fully realized.

The inner goal ties into the action plot line when the hero can only reach the external goal by abandoning his false identity and embracing his true self. As the hero moves on the path toward the finish line, facing ever increasing obstacles, he must tap incrementally deeper into his reservoir of courage so he can overcome the wounds and fears that have been holding him back.

Contrary to how we met the protagonist at the story’s onset, we now are given a snapshot that shows him free of his false beliefs and the façade he erected to protect himself.

Robin William’s character in Good Will Hunting meets Will and immediately calls him “Sport.” By the movies end, “Son” is his choice of terms. The words are nearly synonymous in our culture; their difference is in degrees of intimacy. Both characters chose intimacy over isolation.

plot in 3 acts

Written by The UnNovelist
The Unnovelist