In his book, Save the Cat, Blake Snyder offers us this piece of invaluable advice: “Keep in mind the only reason for storytelling and why [story] A [outer] and [story] B [inner] must cross throughout: It’s to show the true reason for the journey is not getting the tangible goal, but learning the spiritual lesson that can only be found through the B Story!”
This is what the tale is really about: learning the spiritual lesson that allows the hero to overcome the obstacles life and the antagonist throw his way.
At the inciting incident, the hero is given a wake-up call. A ripple runs through his ordinary world. His first response is usually incorrect. In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise is told he is to go to the war-front to film the allied invasion. His response is to try and blackmail the General in order to force him to reverse his decision. Not a good call.
The first turning point represents the true start of the story. It also sets the outer goal. Tom Cruise is killed, but gets covered by the blue blood of the Alpha Mimic, which causes him to return to relive the day. His response upon finding himself back at square one, however, is to try and talk the Master Sergeant into letting him call his superiors. Lesson still not learnt.
By the midpoint, Cruise finally realises why he keeps returning to the same event, over and over again. He has to team up with the Angel of Verdun and defeat the Mimics by killing their leader, the Omega. Our reluctant protagonist has gone from unwilling participant to motivated Hero. Here, the outer and inner journeys fuse into a single and clear purpose—a plan to save the world from the invading Mimics—even if it means sacrificing oneself to do it. Over and over again.
By the second and final turning point, his recurring efforts are in danger of stalling—a blood transfusion will rob him of his ability to return and relive the day, just as it did the Angel of Verdun’s. And while he is at first reluctant to sacrifice her to this possible permanent-death scenario, he realises that he has no choice but to risk it, if he is to have any hope of defeating the Mimics. This represents a step up in spiritual growth and is a perfect illustration of the two journeys intersecting once more.
The inciting incident, the first turning point, the midpoint, and the second turning point, then, present the writer with perfect opportunities for interweaving the inner and outer journeys of the story. They weld the Hero’s transformational arc to his pursuit of the outer goal.
The inner journey, or the B Story is the spiritual transformational arc the hero undertakes in order to acquire the true goal.
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Image: Daniel Oines