In the simplest terms, the transformational arc is your protagonist’s journey to becoming a true hero.
Your hero begins as an unfulfilled and restless character. The hero is usually predisposed to rejecting any opportunity to grow, mobilize or progress. Essentially the hero is stuck in the ordinary world because of his or her fear. In Act One the fear is superficial, in which neurotic traits are exhibited. But the hero is also hiding a deeper fear, it’s usually based on a past wound that remains unresolved.
- HOOSIERS: Coach fears an inability to fulfill his duties as a coach. Little is required of him since it’s a small town team. Coach has a past history, however, where he let down a player and crossed a line. He can’t forgive himself for the pain he caused. This informs his fear of committing to the team fully or to the woman he’s falling in love with.
- MISS CONGENIALITY: Gracie lives in a man’s world and depends on her strength of training and instinct to gain professional recognition. In the pursuit of her career, she has become one of the boys. Gracie, however, has a past that includes covering up her insecurities by bullying boys to get her way. She’s never had confidence or trust in the strength of her own feminine side.
In each of these characters you can see both the superficial and the deep fear. It is overcoming the deep fear scene by scene that forms the transformational arc. It is essentially the fulfillment of your hero to their true purpose.
It’s important to recognize that the beginning of the transformational arc occurs in Act One while your hero is still struggling in the ordinary world. This anchors the arc.
The climax scene is the recognition of the hero facing the greatest danger while fighting the antagonist. During this confrontation, your hero has an opportunity to revert to his/her old self and remain safe and unchanged. But because of the growth we’ve witnessed scene by scene, and the strength of character that is now preeminently part of your hero, there is no turning back. Your hero literally or metaphorically fights to the death to defeat the antagonist. It is the moment on screen that completes the transformational arc. It is visceral and emotional.
The transformational arc is the element of the movie that gives your story meaning. It is the element of the story that can make the difference between good and great. It is the element of the script that gives value to the journey whether it’s a comedy or a drama.