The finest writing not only reveals true character,
but arcs or changes to that inner nature, for better or worse.
In 1998 McKee signed my first edition hardback of STORY. He wrote:
“To Karel: Tell the TRUTH!”
Ironically with the quote at the top of this article, McKee is not telling his own truth.(*)
He contradicts something he teaches in his art film seminar. On Ingmar Bergman’s THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY(**), McKee makes the point that Bergman
“set out to prove what he desperately wanted to believe and carefully designed this film as a rhetorical argument in dramatic form to make his point. But then his instincts, his integrity, his sense of truth overwhelmed his intellectual ambitions and somehow all the scenes that say the opposite of what he believed overwhelmed the other and as a result the film says that rather than love showing the way to happiness, the more likely fate is that you will end up alone, desperate, blinded with self deception.”
In other words:
If you don’t believe the happy ending, don’t write it.
If you don’t believe characters change in the real world, don’t make them in your screenplays. Tell the Truth.
You don’t have the option to choose between a-protag-with or a-protag-without arc. You must write what you believe in.
Bergman, one of the great storytellers of all time, tried to end THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY on an uplifting note.
He didn’t believe it. It didn’t work.