Self-Revelation, John Truby, The Anatomy of Story, p.49
The battle is an intense and painful experience for the hero. This crucible of battle causes the hero to have a major revelation about who he really is. Much of the quality of your story is based on the quality of this self-revelation. For a good self-revelation, you must first be aware that this step, like need, comes in two forms, psychological and moral.
In a psychological self-revelation, the hero strips away the facade he has lived behind and sees himself honestly for the first time. This stripping away of the facade is not passive or easy. Rather, it is the most active, the most difficult, and the most courageous act the hero performs in the entire story.
Don’t have your hero come right out and say what he learned. This is obvious and preachy and will turn off your audience. Instead you want to suggest your hero’s insight by the actions he takes leading up to the self-revelation.
Josh realizes he has to leave his girlfriend and life at the toy company go back to being a kid if he is to have a good and loving life as an adult.
Rick sheds his cynicism, regains his idealism, and sacrifices his love for Ilsa so he can become a freedom fighter.
Jake’s self-revelation is a negative one. After Evelyn’s death, he mumbles, “As little as possible”. He seems to believe that his life is not only useless but also destructive. Once again, he has hurt someone he loves.
DANCES WITH WOLVES
Dunbar finds a new reason to live and a new way of being a man because of his new wife and his extended Lakota Sioux family. Ironically, the Lakota way of life is almost at an end, so Dunbar’s self-revelation is both positive and negative.
If you have given your hero a moral need, his self-revelation should be moral as well. The hero doesn’t just see himself in a new light; he has an insight about the proper way to act toward others. In effect, the hero realizes that he has been wrong, that he has hurt others, and that he must change. He then proves he has changed by taking new moral action.
Michael realizes what ir really means to be a man — “I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man. I just gotta learn to do it without the dress” — and he apologizes for hurting the woman he loves. Notice that even though the hero comes right out and says what he learned, he says it in such a clever and funny way that it avoids sermonizing.
ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Huck realizes he has been wrong in thinking of Jim as less than human and declares that he would rather go to hell than tell Jim’s owner of his whereabouts.
Structurally, the step with which self-revelation is most closely connected is need. These two steps communicate the character change of your hero (we’ll explore this in more detail in the next chapter). Need is the beginning of the hero’s character change. Self-revelation is the end-point of that change. Need is the mark of the hero’s immaturity at the beginning of the story. It is what is missing, what is holding him back. Self-revelation is the moment when the hero grows as a human being (unless the knowledge is so painful ir destroys him). It is what he learns, what he gains, what allows him to live a better life in the future.