The ‘fires’ of Act Two ‘burn’ away the impurities of a Protagonist’s Old Self allowing the character to see clearly, realize and embrace their Core Essence.
Death. Fire. An interesting way to think of the ordeals which a Protagonist must endure in Act Two, and from a writing experience inspire us to make their life a Living Hell.”
Scott Myers at Go Into the Story has written a series of posts showing how screenwriters can metaphorically apply theological ideas including Hell to raise their work to the next level.
His Hell post, which wisks its way swiftly from tortured souls trapped in hellfire to the molten metal created in a refiner’s fire is several degrees more elegant than the usual writerly advice to chase your character up a tree, surround the tree with alligators, and chuck rocks at the poor sap.
Kudos for a thought-provoking series.
In the meantime, Scott asked for examples of movies that sent their characters to a metaphorical Hell.
Here’s mine: Groundhog Day.
Think about it. Was there ever a character more condemned to eternal torment? He kept getting the girl but couldn’t keep her, kept leaving town but couldn’t stay gone, and keep killing himself and retuning to life in the morning. The fact that the movie is enormous fun and rather touching, and the character’s arc is beautifully drawn, goes to prove Scott Myer’s point. Sending a character to hell — even a simple, short and private one that no one else in the movie experiences — can work wonders.
Obviously, there’s no reason at all why the same advice wouldn’t work audio theater, short fiction and novels. The next time I’m spinning my wheels and struggling with a muddle in the middle of some story, I’m going to give serious thought to Hell and crucibles — and give the refiner’s fire a shot at burning away the dross.
How about you? Are you down with putting characters through Hell — or do you prefer the tree-and-alligators analogy?