In the story Tried & True, written by Guy Cote and me, the film opens with the protagonist or Hero being trapped in a form of slavery that is perceived as freedom. By the end of the film, he had become his own free man. To move him from slavery in Act 1 to freedom in Act 3, we had to take him through several developmental stages. Hopefully this process will help other filmmakers achieve the same transformation of a character in two hours.
I will use the ABCs & D of Transformation. When you read through my steps, consider this chart:
START A B C D END
STEP 1: Determine the positive trait you want for the protagonist by the end of the film. Write that trait down under letter A. For our story I wrote, “Freedom”.
STEP 2: Determine the opposite, or the contradiction of that trait, and write it down under letter C. I wrote, “Slavery”.
STEP 3: Determine what is half way between A and C and write the word down under B. I wrote, “Restraint”.
STEP 4: Determine what the double negative of C is and write it down under D. I wrote, “Slavery perceived as Freedom”. This is the double negative because nothing is worse than being a slave, except for being one without knowing it. Then again, self-enslavement might be worse.
STEP 5: Align the ABCs & D in reverse order of the story.
STEP 6: Write the character development traits into the story. Since each act is about 25 pages, you can spread out your development of each condition within the 25 pages. The idea is to take the character from their worst state to their best state in 25 page increments.
My character went from:
In Act 1 of Tried & True, the Hero is a man who enjoys woman and drinks. It is his choice lifestyle because it is the opposite of what his father does, or so he thinks. What he doesn’t realize is that the lifestyle controls him. In Act 2A the Hero finds himself struggling to solve his problems and finds that he is drawn or hooked, like a slave, to women and drinks for a quick temporary fix, but is redirected by the Heroine of the story, which helps his character to grow.
In Act 2B, the Hero doesn’t need anyone’s help to realize that women and drinks don’t solve his problem and he decides to restrain himself from returning to that path. By Act 3, the Hero has become a new man who faces his struggles head on and no longer has a need for women or drinks. In his freedom, the Hero finds true love and happiness.