Is your Hero really the Hero?

There are a number of techniques for elevating your story throughout the scriptwriting process, but one of the most powerful is component substitution at the concept level.

Putting it a different way, is your current High Concept the best way to tell the story you have percolating in your mind?


To do this you break down the concept into its various components (hero, goal, need, want, allies, locations, obstacles, villains, etc) and then apply different techniques to elevate each one, creating new juxtapositions and ideas.


The aim is threefold:

  1. can you find the most enticing story for your audience?
  2. the most marketable for your agent/producer/studio?
  3. and most importantly, the one that resonates and inspires you the most, that’s going to help you keep writing until it’s done!

Different courses have different approaches to this, usually in a section called Where do Ideas Come From? or The Idea  Machine! so I’m not going to tread on their ground, just remember to pay attention to this step when it comes up, as it can really help you write, rewrite, and sell your work. (ScreenwritingU’s ProSeries course includes a great section on this!)


But I am going to mention one component that isn’t usually added: Archetype.


Is your Hero, really the Hero?

This is not just about finding the perfect person for your story to happen to.

This is about potentially skewing your story in an entirely different direction, and uncovering new wonders within.


Is your Hero, really the Hero?

Or is he or she the Villain, the Shadow, the Trickster, the Mentor, the Fool, a Traveling Angel, etc?


How does your concept change, if your current Hero character acts in a different way according to a different archetype, and is motivated by different wants, and follows a different arc?

  • How does it affect your characters’ introductions, meetings, traits, needs, and wants?
  • How does it affect your Act 2 and Act 3 breaks?
  • How does it affect what’s at stake?
  • Who becomes the real Hero, and where do they end up?


Go watch Fargo, and tell me who the Hero is.

Is it Marge? Who doesn’t appear until page 31?

Or are we fooled into thinking it’s hapless Jerry?

He’s certainly set up as a put-upon, empathetic character, getting in over his head.

But he’s the villain, right?


The original concept could have been told with Jerry as the traditional Hero, as in, say, Ransom, or A Life Less Ordinary.

But that wouldn’t have fitted the Coen brothers’ needs. :-)


This is a technique that you can apply at various points when writing your script.

For my current script, I was well into a rewrite of a first draft, and thought I’d already found the “one true way” of the story that worked for me, only to run this again, and find a far more in-your-face way to tell it, that I really liked, that…sigh… meant another rewrite!

But that’s the business, no? :-)


Give it a go, and see how it makes you feel about your high concept.

Help it to be the best that it can be.