Apotheosis - the Seminal Insight of the Hero for Screenwriting
Every hero has a seminal insight - the apotheosis. Once you know what that insight will be, you can start building your story up to and beyond that point:
In Casablanca, Rick's insight is that if you love someone, you sacrifice yourself for their happiness. That sacrifice can include selling your most prized material possessions (he sells his bar), allowing your love to find happiness in another's arms (he ultimately allows Ilsa to be with Victor), physical suffering (it is likely that his ultimate actions will see him to a concentration camp), leaving dear friends (he will have to leave Sam behind) and forced exile from home and heart (he will have to leave Casablanca). He learns this insight from both Ilsa and Victor, who are prepared to do the same for each other.
In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne's apotheosis is that you either get busy living or you get busy dying. He reaches that insight in the scene by the prison wall with Red (Morgan Freeman), but it is preceeded by the earlier insight that he will never get out of prison (Warden Norton will never let him go). The apotheosis is preceded by the physical processes of submersion (being locked in the hole for two months; the Belly of the Whale of the Ordeal) and rebirth through death (symbolised by the death of Tommy). The apotheosis is preceded by the crossing of the First Threshold and the Ordeal in general.
In Al Pacino Scarface, Tony Montana's insight is that the rewards of the path he's chosen are not worth the spiritual price he is paying, expressed with the words (in the restaurant scene): "is this it? Is that what it's all about Manny? Eating, drinking, fucking, sucking," "no free rides in this world kid," "I lost my appetite," "is that what I worked for? With these hands? Is that what I killed for? For this?"
In Alien, Ripley's apotheosis arrives during the conversation with Ash, the revived android. He tells her that the alien cannot be destroyed and that the military want it - this horror will be unleashed on the Earth unless she destroys it and the only way to do that is to nuke the Nostromo.
In all of the above, the apotheosis leads straight into the final act. The insight gives the hero strength and focus and helps him (or her) overcome the antagonism and inner challenges.
A detailed analysis of the Apotheosis and story structure templates can be found at http://www.managing-creativity.com/
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Kal Bishop, MBA
You are free to reproduce this article as long as no changes are made and the author's name and site URL are retained.
Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. His specialities include Knowledge Management and Creativity and Innovation Management. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached at http://www.managing-creativity.com
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