Act Three

the-endThe Price

The most important element at the end of the story is the price the character pays for his or her choices.  The Price is the audience’s pay off for watching the character struggle. The Price must be staggeringly expensive for the character in order for the audience to care deeply about the story or the film’s outcome. The higher the price the more audience cares.

The Price the character must pay is:

– The personal cost of turning away from the Want and embracing the Need.

– The personal cost of turning away from the Need to pursue the ego-driven goal or Want.

– Which price is the character willing to pay? The character must ultimately pay one price or the other.

Character MapHard Choices Make Great Stories

When your character faces two impossible choices the audience is riveted.  The more daunting you make your character’s dilemma the more affecting his or her ultimate decision will be. Make your character’s potential rewards enormous and make the price paid for those rewards staggering. Give your character a real struggle between a want and a need.

What the character Wants is a clear simple ego-driven goal. It is something he or she can physically grasp or obtain. The Want is a finite object of the character’s personal desire. It is something concrete that would gratify or benefit the protagonist individually.

What the character Needs is an inner longing that the character is unaware of, denies, suppresses or ignores. It is a deeper more intangible human yearning. To embrace the Need the character must abandon specific selfish goals and address more far-reaching human concerns.

What is the personal cost of obtaining the Want or object of desire? What is the personal cost of embracing the Need and living one’s highest, truest, most authentic values? Which Price is the character willing to pay? What is the character willing to sacrifice to obtain the Want or embrace the Need? The tougher the choice is, the better the story.

Act Three offers two possible story endings based on the character’s choice. The script can end in tragedy or in transformation, renewal and completion.  Great screenwriting is creating a dilemma that forces a character to struggle with his or her values. Great screenwriters put impossible choices before their characters and make their characters pay a devastating price for their choice.


If the story ends in tragedy, the character choose the Want over the Need.  The character uses the Strongest Traits to try to solve the problems or to dig his or her way out of the hole created by the emotional trap of the second act. (What happens when you try to dig your way out of a hole? It gets deeper.)

The character has to escalate his or her actions to obtain the Want and becomes more like the Antagonist. The character “fights fire with fire.”

A character who won’t surrender his or her Strongest Traits can’t make the Leap of Faith at the end of the second act.  The character’s actions increasingly are driven by his or her Fear. A character who is consumed by Fear can’t help but eventually fall to the Dark Side.

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Jump-for-Joy-etbscreenwritingThe Leap Of Faith

The Leap of Faith is:

– A leap the character must make against logic, reason, practicality and good judgement.

– Trying something new rather than relying on the Strongest Traits.

– Letting go of the Mask and surrendering the Strongest Traits.

– Becoming open and vulnerable instead of trying to deny, hide or control the Fear.

– Asking for help instead of trying to handle everything using the Strongest Traits.

– Being totally and completely oneself without apology, justification or excuse.

– Accepting and being satisfied with one’s self as one is.

– Facing the Fear (of not being good enough or not having enough) instead denying or hiding the Fear (by living in the pretense of the Mask).

At the beginning or the script the character cannot imagine what it would be like to live without his or her Mask. The character can’t imagine having the traits most admired. The character is driven by fear to do more, be more or have more. When the character makes the Leap of Faith he or she accepts him or herself. The character fully and completely lives into his or her own inner potential. The character believes he or she is enough.

letting-goCharacter Transformation

The character who makes a Leap of Faith and surrenders his or her Strongest Traits finds emotional completion.  He or she surrenders the things of the world and embraces the things of the heart, the soul and the spirit.

– The character lets go of the Want and embraces the Need.

– The character confronts his or her Fear.

– The character achieves authenticity by being him or her self and being fully satisfied with that state of authentic being.

kids-raising-hands-etbscreenwritingThe Life Lessons

The conflicts in the story give a character the opportunity to learn the lessons needed to make a Leap of Faith and live a more authentic and balanced life.  Unless a character learns these lessons he or she will never be able to face and transcend his or her fear.  The Life Lessons teach the character to embrace what is really important.  They are the lessons of the heart, the soul and the spirit which help the character get in touch with his or her highest and truest self.

The Character’s Life Lessons are:

– The lessons the character must learn in order to embrace his or her inner Need.

– The lessons the character must learn to let go of the ego-driven Want.

– The lessons the character must learn to become whole and complete.

– The lessons the character must learn to become the (admirable) person the story or the script is calling him or her to become.

In making choices and pursuing a line of action a character has the opportunity to learn what he or she really Needs. If the character simply presses onward toward what he or she Wants and ignores the Life Lesson, the character takes a step toward the Dark Side. In learning the Life Lesson the character takes a step toward becoming his or her truest highest most authentic self and is transformed.

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