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Whoever your main-character is, they should have a character-flaw. Something that is impacting their lives in a negative way. Some way that they could be a much better person.

Perhaps they are a degenerate liar. Perhaps they’re a drunk. Perhaps they’re a drug-addict. Perhaps they’re racist or prejudiced. Perhaps they’re afraid of heights. Perhaps they’re angry at the world. Perhaps they’re disrespectful to their mother.

It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s a problem they can overcome. And, that overcoming this problem will make them a better person in the end.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky...

Now we come to the most overlooked subject in all of screenwriting, the Character-Arc!

Young screenwriters almost always either ignore this - or mess it up. There’s no point, either. It’s really about as simple as it gets. It’s just tricky to implement.

Your character-flaw should be something that is preventing your protagonist from achieving his goal. If your movie’s about a killer-shark, your protagonist should probably be afraid of either sharks or water.

You know what your first turning-point is. You know what your climax is. Now, the tricky part is crafting an internal-character-arc for your protagonist. He needs a character-flaw that is preventing him from achieving what he needs to achieve at the climax.

That’s why it’s better to think about the Character-Arc early in the process, while you are creating your main-plot. Everyone always leaves it ‘til the end and tries to force it in.

It’s much easier if you create your internal-character-arc at the same time as you are creating your protagonist and his quest. Right at the very beginning.

Let’s say your movie is about a man who defies death by tight-rope walking across a giant canyon. It’s so much easier to think about this at the beginning and just say ‘OK, so he’s afraid of heights!’ If you wait until the end to think about the protagonist’s internal-conflict, it may be too late! Maybe you’ve written the whole movie - and he’s not afraid of heights! All of a sudden, you can’t use the simple and easy character-arc, you have to come up with something completely different and try to shoehorn it in.

In Lost in Translation, both the main-characters are lost. Neither of them can connect with anyone anymore. Not Bob with his wife, not Charlotte with her husband. They are in a funk, walking around in a daze almost.

They won’t be able to get back to their lives - until they overcome this and learn to connect with other people once again. With each other. That’s why everyone calls it a romance - even though the two main-characters don’t really fall in love. They just learn to connect.

Movies with anti-heroes tend to start off with a really strong character-flaw: the protagonist is a really bad guy! Then, by the end of the film, he redeems himself by sacrificing his life to save the little girl (or whoever) at the climax. You’ve probably seen some variation of that a dozen times in different films.

The anti-hero has to die too, because Hollywood really doesn’t like it if your script doesn’t follow a strict Judeo-Christian moral-code. They really don’t like it.

That means that, if you want to write a story about a bad guy (or bank robbers, drug dealers, etc...), they probably can’t win in the end. So, that’s why you always have the anti-hero sacrificing himself for the good of others at the end of so many movies - the protagonist needs a character-arc, so he has to change, but he can’t win, so he has to die.

How many times have you seen a bank-robbery movie - where the criminals get away with the money - only to have it stolen from them in the last minute of the film?

Ocean’s 11 has the famous ending where all the criminals have gathered to retrieve the cash from inside the casket - only to realize, too late, that it’s a cremation!

The bad guys can’t win in Hollywood (unless they are secretly good guys, of course). You can’t say certain (extremely tame) swear-words on television, for Christ sakes - in the middle of the 21st century - if they won’t allow sex or swearing on television, they sure as hell aren’t going to allow bad guys to win!

The only way a bad guy can win - is if he completely redeems himself and becomes a good guy.

Which is, itself, a pretty darn good character-arc!

The three main things you need to remember about your Character-Arc:

  1. Your protagonist needs an internal-conflict
  2. This internal-conflict or character-flaw is preventing him from getting what he wants
  3. He overcomes this character flaw - and in doing so is able to finally get what he wants (and become a better person in the process)
Writing Your Character-Arc or Internal-Conflict:FORWARDThe Third Act - Overcoming the Protagonist’s Character-Flaw or Internal-Conflict

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The First Act of your Three-Act Structure. This is where you introduce your main characters to the audience and get the plot rolling. The end of your 1st Act comes with the First Turning Point, the point at which your protagonist chooses his quest The 2nd Act - Where the bulk of your plot goes. Confrontation - this is where your protagonist confronts the status quo and attempts to change it for the better Your 2nd Act can't end without your Second Turning Point! Things may seem bleak for your protagonist, but all is not lost yet! There is still hope!... Backstory - what happened in the past. Exposition, expository dialogue, etc... It all comes down to this - your climax! The end of your story. The conclusion. The one thing everyone in the audience wants to know: does the protagonist win? The 3rd Act - the final act in your three-act structure, where everything is decided, the climax, the conclusion, the end. Your Film's Theme - what your movie is really about. The undercurrent. The second act of your screenplay should be filled with ups and downs, dramatically speaking of course. Like a roller-coaster. It's all about creating conflict and drama. BACK Welcome to SCREENPLAY.today - your free online screen-writing program - learn how to write a screenplay for free! Free Online Screenplay Writing Course from SCREENPLAY.today - screenwriting advice, help, information, hints, tips & tricks