Jillian here. Last weekend the Southern Magic chapter of RWA hosted the awesome Debra Dixon from Belle Bridge Books/Bell Books. She talked about Goal, Motivation and Conflict (she wrote the book!) as well as The Hero's Journey - both of these are intertwined in every good story. Deb showed us many examples of what she was teaching us and a lot of those were through movies. She also said she keeps a movie journal and after watching a film for fun, she then watches again and breaks them down. I love, love that idea and have already stolen it and started doing it. It's an awesome tool to learn to do these things in our own work.
The Hero's Journey is a 12 step process. I’m not going to cover it all but it begins with the ordinary life, goes to the call to adventure and then to accepting the challenge and crossing the threshold to the new world. The other elements follow and the point of all 12 steps is the change your character must go through on his journey to the end of the book.
I watched Back to the Future Wednesday night and was picking out all the things I learned from this amazing workshop. When the story opens, we see Marty's ordinary life with parents who have issues- mom with alcohol and dad with being a wimp. His siblings are lazy and unmotivated. He's the only cool person in the family. Marty hangs out with an older man, Doc Brown and goes to meet him at the mall for an experiment that Doc wants him to record. When that goes wrong, Marty has to make a decision to get away. The big call to adventure is when he jumps in the DeLorean where he guns it and getting up to 88 mph, crosses the threshold into 1955 which is totally not his ordinary world even though he can see signs of it around him as he gets out of the car. Another cool thing I noticed about the film is the use that’s made of all the science fiction that was a craze in the 1950s. A neat homage, I think.
Marty’s first goal is to find a way home. His motivation is to get back to his life. Once he finds Doc Brown, his goal changes. It becomes a much more important goal – vital, even. He must now get his parents together or he and his siblings will cease to exist. His first goal takes a backseat to the more urgent one for a while. His motivation changes to needing to save the very lives of his brother, sister and himself. The conflict (thing stopping him) is that his dad is a wimp and won't ask his mom out, and, as well, his dad allows Biff to intimidate him. Mom is also attracted to Marty, not George since the inciting incident Marty had heard all his life on how his parents met didn't happen to George but to him. The rest of the middle of the movie is Marty dealing with these basic conflicts/tests.
At the end of the movie, we see the transformation of Marty's family. When his dad found the courage to stand up to Biff, that changed everything. The mom looks younger, sexier, and happy. Dad has followed his dream of writing a book. Biff is the one who bows to Marty's dad and even the brother and sister are changed. Marty seems to be the same but he's learned a lot and matured on his journey back from the future. He tries to stop his mom from drinking and basically acts as the adult with both his parents. Marty also tries to get back sooner in time than he left so he can save Doc Brown from the Libyans.
See how fun that was? Let's quickly start breaking down another movie and then I want you guys in the comments to share the GMC or Hero’s Journey, or both in one of your favorite films. Or share at least part of one.
The movie Spy that just came out with Melissa McCarthy is one I recently saw at the theater. Her ordinary life was being the eyes and ears of a spy played by Jude Law- she didn’t go into the field; rather, she directed the action for him from the safety of her desk. Her call to adventure was when he was killed in the line of duty, she volunteered to step in as she was the only agent whose ID hadn't been compromised. Her crossing the threshold of the new world was when she was dressed in the undercover wardrobe and landed in Europe. She endures various tests which challenge her.
Goal: take down the bad guys who have all the IDs of the CIA agents.
Motivation: save lives of agents; get a sort of justice for the death of Jude Law's character
Conflict: all the obstacles placed before her by the ones who have the info and are killing agents.
Without giving away spoilers, we see Melissa's character grow and change during this movie. She is totally not the same person we met at the beginning as she is at the end. Her journey and change was much less subtle and way more overt than Marty's in Back to the Future. But both were great movies full of conflict, motivation and goals. Just different ways of delivering the journey. How cool is that?
Try it yourself. Break us down a movie. You know you want to. :)