The 4 Levels of Transformation
When your goal is to deliver a written or spoken story that elicits emotion (as it ALWAYS must be), your story has to include 3 essential elements: character, desire and conflict. You must introduce us to an empathetic character who desperately wants some compelling goal, and who must overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve it.
But to touch your readers and audiences deeply, a fourth element is just as crucial: transformation.
Something must change in the course of your story. Life must be different in some way as a result of your hero taking this journey and achieving (or failing to achieve) his or her goal.
This transformation will occur on four different levels. The first three are:
- Your hero’s external circumstances will change. She (or he) might be wealthier, more powerful, more successful, more admired; she’s is in a new relationship; she is no longer threatened by the villain or demon or disease she overcame; or (if she was unsuccessful) she might be alone, or disgraced, or deceased.
- Your hero has changed internally. The arc of her inner journey might have made her more courageous, more loving, more moral, or (whether she succeeded or failed) wiser.
- The world around your hero has changed. Her courage and sacrifice has made those around her safer, happier, wiser, more loving or more courageous themselves.
In last year’s Oscar® winning film The Shape of Water, the hero Elisa desperately wants to rescue – and ultimately be with – the amphibious creature with whom she is falling in love, in spite of the government agent who tortures and torments him, the military General who wants to experiment on him or kill him, the impossibility of getting him away from the facility where he’s imprisoned, and the fact that he is slowly dying.
(If you haven’t seen the film, stop reading now and watch it – it’s terrific.)
By the end of The Shape of Water:
- The hero’s circumstances have changed: she is united with the creature.
- The hero has changed: she is no longer meek and withdrawn, but courageous and connected.
- The world has changed: the creature is safe and resurrected; the evil threat to the two lovers is vanquished; and her friend Giles has found a level of courage – and perhaps a faith in love and magic – that he lacked at the beginning of the story.
The fourth transformation may be harder to recognize and achieve, but will be just as powerful: you, the storyteller, will change.
If you have the courage to tell stories that grow out of your own fears and failures and successes – out of your own flawed humanity – then you will experience a greater sense of your own inner strength and courage and connection. And these are the stories that will touch your followers most deeply.
I struck gold on Udemy when I bought your course there! I started it today and had to learn more so I found you here! The information you share is fantastic! Thank you for being the virtual mentor I have been looking for! I’m working on the steps today! I love the change that takes place in storytelling. Transformation is why I love to write! Life is a fairy tale filled with obstacles but the end goal is the finish line of that happily ever after ending. I also agreed with the comment above where the audience also changes! That’s my goal in writing. By filling the hero’s journey steps that you lay out, I can now make that happen! Keep sharing! It means so much to have a Mr Miyagi exist in my life. I’m a kid with so much to learn but I’m listening and I’ll be one to “wax on” and “wax off”! Thank you for sharing your expertise!!!
Thank you all for these very kind and encouraging comments. I’m working on a new series of articles (you’ll get the first one next week), but by the time I came up for air to see all your responses, there were too many to answer individually. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t deeply appreciated – or that they haven’t been a great way to start the weekend!
All the best –
Thank you Michale , it’s gives me every time freshness to write some work, recently I am working on three movie script one is for short but not sure how long it’s goes , two for feature. I am absent minded so your article reminding for while I am writing or start to writing. Thank you and very happy Diwali ( Tihar in Nepal ) for everyone, Love !!!
Thanks, Michael: Excellent as all your contributions are.
Michael you have the happy knack of putting important ideas in a simple, easily remembered form. Your videos on screen writing and story telling I play regularly. Especially when the story gets bogged down!! Sure enough, I have missed one of your important ideas. You are my writing GURU!
Michael, you are truly a ‘MASTER’ at dismembering what makes an excellent framework for writers and viewers alike whatever the genre. However, until producers recognise the potential of ‘fresh’ material for the screen, with a dash of nostalgia (period and historical true stories) the older world population will continue to suffer from today’s spin on societies’ minority, in-your-face causes and unrealistic, futuristic films.
thank you for this breakdown
Thanks, Michael, I needed that. Yes, for my ms and even more so for me.
Thank you so much for this info. It’s always about you making us better story tellers,
and you do that so well.
With much appreciation
I especially like the fourth level. I will be inserting the changes that need to happen in my plots.
Carolyn Rae, Romancing the Doctor
In truly great films there is one more change; a change in the audience. Having travelled in someone else shoes for two hours, a great film will give the audience a new perspective on life.
Thank you, Michael,
It was very useful and educating. My name is Eugene Natalenko. I own the script “Hellians” based on my book “Hellians or Soul-O-Rule”. It’s a spiritual drama/fantasy genre 2-script miniseries (120 pages each). It was written by award-winning and produced screenwriter, Colin K. Stewart (IMDb). And TV show pilot is coming in January 2019.
Thank you for pointing out these very important components for successful story telling. Your knowledge is very helpful and appreciated! I hope to attend one of your seminars in the future.