The following is a digest of a movie in the format of the Agile Writer Method. The Story Abstract gives a high-level overview of the story. The Hero Abstract gives an overview of the Hero (protagonist). The Storyboard is an 8-stage breakdown of the story along with elements of the Hero’s Journey (by Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler). You can learn more about this method in my book Agile Writer: Method or at my website AgileWriters.com
Title: A Night at the Museum 3
Author: David Guion, Michael Handelman
Audience: Young Adult
Message: You must let your children grow
One Line Description: A museum night watchman wants to solve the riddle of an egyptian tablet and learns to let his son grow.
Elevator Speech: It’s the story of a man who is a night watchman at a museum where all the exhibits come to life. He wants to restore a golden tablet so that the exhibits will continue to live. Along the way he learns to let his son grow in his own way.
Missing Inner Quality: Need to control son’s life
Life Goal: To run the museum’s fund raising through “special effects” shows
Main Goal: To restore the Egyptian tablet and save the lives of the exhibits
Sympathetic Qualities: ?
Greatest Fear: Losing his son
Mentor: Teddy Roosevelt, Old Night Watchman CJ
Allies: Sacajawea, Teddy Roosevelt, Son Nick, Ahkmenra, Jedediah, Octavious, Attilla the Hun
Opposition: Sir Lancelot
Stage 0: Prologue
(The Prologue is optional and is often set in the past. It sets up Stage 2: The Special World. It may include a younger version of the hero or the hero’s ancestors.)
It’s 1930 and we meet archeologist Robert Fredericks and his son CJ who are on a dig in Egypt. The boy falls through the the ceiling of a tomb and discovers the magic tablet that eventually makes its way to the NY Museum.
Stage 1: The Hero
(The Hero is the stage where we meet the hero of the story. We encounter the hero in his Ordinary World. We learn about the hero’s Life Goal (which is usually to do well in his occupation or to go some distant place in the future). Something happens (the Inciting Incident) which puts the hero in uncharted territory (the Special World). We learn what is important to the hero and we are given insight to his Missing Inner Quality. The Missing Inner Quality is what the story is really all about. The Hero’s Journey is in fact a quest to overcome the Missing Inner Quality and it must be resolved by story’s end.)
We meet Larry who is running a fund raiser for the NY Metropolitan Museum. He is the night watchman (life goal). All the exhibits have come to life thanks to the Egyptian tablet that gives life to the exhibits every night. But something goes wrong with the tablet and the fund raiser is ruined. (Inciting Incident)
He returns home to find his son (Nick) throwing a party at their apartment. He shuts down the party and sends everyone home. His son informs him that he doesn’t want to go to college, as planned. He wants to take a year off to be a DJ. Larry doesn’t want his son to go off on his own (Missing inner quality, not able to let son grow up).
Stage 2 : Special World
(The Special World is a situation or place that is unfamiliar to the hero. The hero often travels from the Ordinary World to the Special World (crossing the first threshold). The hero will seek the advice of mentors who will guide them in the rules of the special world. The mentor will often lay down a Call to Adventure that the hero nearly always Refuses at first. The hero may accumulate Allies or Friends and be introduced to his Opposition or Villain. The hero will replace the Life Goal with a new, tangible, Main Goal that must be resolved by the end of the story. The hero may get the Main Goal, or not. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Missing Inner Quality is attained.)
Larry goes to the museum archivist (mentor) to learn more about the tablet. He learns it came from a dig from the 30s and was found by a boy named CJ Fredericks (as foreshadowed in the Prologue). Larry realizes this is Cecil Fredericks the night watchman who turned the job over to Larry over 10 years ago.
Larry goes to visit Cecil (mentor) and his friends at a retirement home. Cecil tells him that there was a curse on the tablet that it would come to an end. He tells Larry that he has to return the tablet to the King and find the secret of the tablet to reverse the corrosion (the call to adventure). Larry balks indicating that the King is in the Museum of Britain (refusal of the call).
Larry goes to the (now fired) curator of the NY Metropolitan Museum and convinces him to forge papers for him to go to Britain, find the King of Egypt, and restore the tablet (main goal).
Larry and his exhibits (Allies) fly to England to deliver the tablet to the Museum of Britain. (crossing the first threshold).
Stage 3: Discovery
(In Discovery, the hero has learned the rules of the Special World and is now discovering how he fits into that world. He will further expose his Missing Inner Quality. Discovery often ends with a Reminder of what is at stake for the hero and his Main Goal.)
Arriving in England, Larry is met with an annoying guard who keeps him out of the museum (Gatekeeper). But he gets past her.
Inside the museum, he opens the crate to find that his allies have all joined him on his quest (Sacajawea, Teddy Roosevelt, Son Nick, Ahkmenra, Jedediah, Octavious, Attilla the Hun and Laa the cave man). They make their way into the Museum to find the Egyptian exhibit where Ahkmenra’s parents are kept. But things are that easy. They meet with trials including the bones of a triceratops. They are aided by a suit of armor that turns out to be Sir Lancelot. We are reminded of the Main Goal when the NYC exhibits start to act strangely due to the corrosion on the tablet.
Stage 4: Growth
(In Growth, the hero comes to master the Special World and will face an Ordeal that will require him to choose to go forward or go back. He will make a decision with will make him so Committed that going back is no longer an option – all his bridges back to the Ordinary World are burned. From here, things will start to go badly for our hero and getting the Main Goal will get more difficult.)
Octavious and Jedediah fall into an air vent and find themselves in a re-enactment of Pompeii and are about to be engulfed in lava. Meanwhile, the group battles a hydra-like snake. The monkey saves Octavious and Jedediah and the team escapes the hydra. The monkey, Octavious and Jedediah are reunited with the rest of the team.
Stage 5: Decline
(In Decline, the hero is facing setback after setback. His attempts to get the Main Goal are thwarted at every turn. Decline end with another Reminder about the Main Goal and what is at stake.)
The team finds the Egyptian exhibit and the King and Queen who tell Larry the secret of the tablet and that the tablet needs to be exposed to moonlight. Now the heroes have a new Main Goal – to get the tablet into the moonlight by morning or all the exhibits go back to their original state forever (Note: when changing the main goal, make sure that the stakes are raised. Also notice how a “ticking clock” is started so that a sense of urgency is added on.)
Stage 6: Despair
(In Despair, the hero falls further into despair as getting the Main Goal is more and more out of reach. Despair ends with “Death or Disappointment” where someone close to the hero may die or he suffers a defeat that makes getting the Main Goal impossible.)
Sir Lancelot steals the tablet (thinking it is the grail) and rides off into the night seeking Camelot. The night guard finds Larry and Laa (the caveman) and puts them into a break room. where Larry starts pouring his heart out to Laa about his failure as a father and his concerns about Nick (reminder of the Missing Inner Quality).
Stage 7: The Gathering Storm
(In The Gathering Storm, the hero gathers his resources and his allies and makes a new plan for getting the Main Goal. This stage ends with the Climax, which is an all-out attempt to achieve the Main Goal. The hero may or may not gain the Main Goal, but the disposition of the Main Goal is resolved one way or another. The hero will attain his Missing Inner Quality and use it in attaining the Main Goal.)
Larry and Laa escape and rejoin with the other exhibits. Laa is charged with keeping the guard in the guard shack.
The team is reunited and goes in search of Lancelot.
Meanwhile the team is thwarted in their search by iron lions who have come to life.
Meanwhile Laa and the guard start to bond in a romantic way.
Lancelot goes in search of Camelot and finds a theater where the play Camelot is playing. Lancelot thinks that Hugh Jackman and Alice Eve are King Arthur and Guenevire. Realizing that everything is fake, Lancelot goes into a rage and storms off to the top of the building.
Meanwhile our heroes are on a bus trying to find Lancelot. They find the theater and find Lancelot on the top of the theater.
Lancelot’s nose melts and he comes to the realization that he is not real.
The tablet is overcome with corrosion and the other exhibits are reverting to their original states, they are dying.
The monkey reverts back to his stuffed form. Larry is overcome with grief after losing his friend.
Lancelot realizes the truth of the tablet and gives it to Larry who exposes it to the moon and all the exhibits are restored to life.
Stage 8: Resolution
(In Resolution, the hero has vanquished the Villain and now exposes the “elixir” or message of the story. The disposition of the hero and his allies and enemies is revealed. There may be an optional Epilogue which explains where the hero and others end up years after the story is over.)
Returning to the museum Larry returns Ahkmenra to the Egyptian King. The King tells Larry how it is hard to watch his son grow up so fast. Larry gains insight into his own feelings about his son, Nick’s growing up.
The other exhibits tell Larry that the Ahmenra and the tablet belong in the British Museum. They realize that they will no longer be alive, but they are happy to be giving the gift of education to museum goers. Larry gathers Laa and tells the night guard that she’s going to have the best job ever from now on. They get home before the sun rises and so Larry and the others make their tearful goodbyes. Larry and Nick come to a resolution about the DJ life and college.
Three years later, Larry has moved on to a teaching position. The night guard has returned to NYC to share the tablet exhibit with the (now reinstated) museum head. All the British and NYC exhibits come to life.