All Is Lost Means All Is Lost
In workshops and consultations, one question comes up a lot: If my Midpoint is a False Defeat, should my All Is Lost be a victory? The straightforward simple answer is NO. Regardless of what your Midpoint is, the All Is Lost should always be the lowest point of your hero’s journey, physically and emotionally.
There is no victory for your hero at the All Is Lost moment. This is when your hero is farthest away from his or her goal – when any light at the end of that proverbial tunnel has been extinguished. It’s your hero’s darkest moment. That’s why the Dark Night of the Soul beat happens right after. Not a Bright Day of the Soul beat.
So, if you do have a False Defeat at Midpoint you must find ways to make your hero go even lower as you approach the All Is Lost beat. That’s why it’s called Bad Guys Close In – not Good Guys Close In. You have to make it even harder for your hero to move forward. How? It’s easy, as Blake would say. While it becomes harder for your hero to get to his or her external goal past the Midpoint, you must make sure that your emotional story is adding to your hero’s difficulties and struggles.
Remember, all good stories are about change. Transformation. Your story must force your hero to change or learn a lesson at least (more on that on another day). Your hero’s refusal to change, to reject the Theme, is how it becomes harder for your hero to get through the Bad Guys Close In beat.
How does your hero realize that “they” were not the problem, rather “I” was the problem. “I” was the biggest doofus of them all. “I” am in this crap hole because “I” didn’t want to listen to others… because “I” didn’t care what others thought… because “I” didn’t want to admit “I” made a mistake.
In Bridesmaids, which is as funny as it is wonderfully structured, Annie (Kristen Wiig) experiences a False Defeat at Midpoint when Lillian (Maya Rudolph), her best friend, tells her that she’s no longer going to be her Maid of Honor. Instead, she’s handing the job over to Helen (Rose Byrne) – Annie’s nemesis – the b***h that’s been stealing Lillian from her and acting like Lillian’s best friend.
So did Annie have a victory at All Is Lost? No! She found a way to go even lower. Annie crashed Lillian’s Parisian-themed bridal shower that Helen was hosting (and stole from Annie) and was giving away cute adorable puppies. Puppies!!! Annie and Lillian have a big fight and Lillian tells Annie, not only is she no longer part of her wedding, but she wants her out of her life as well. OUCH!!! Annie went from losing her spot in the bridal entourage to losing her best friend. That is no victory at all for Annie. It simply is a true All Is Lost. All because Annie was so stuck in her past failures and couldn’t move forward, which was exactly what her best friend’s wedding represented – moving forward with one’s life.
So if you find yourself with a False Defeat at Midpoint, that’s great. But it doesn’t mean you should have a victory at the All Is Lost. It means exactly what it sounds like. Your hero must be at his or her lowest moment in the story. Only a real All Is Lost beat allows your hero to move forward into the third act and become the hero he or she was meant to be.