#ThinkpieceThursday – Game of Thrones: Action and Consequence

Thinkpiece Thursday

This post has been excerpted (and paraphrased) from a wonderful article in FORBES MAGAZINE.

George R. R. Martin is a great writer who cares deeply about carefully plotting his stories in a way that is consistent and makes sense.

His characters act true to themselves and are believable. Perhaps more importantly, the bad things that happen in Martin’s books are always, without fail, consequences.

A character always causes his or her own downfall.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Oberyn Martell was killed in his fight with the Mountain due to his own foolishness.  When the Mountain was down for the count, Oberyn doesn’t finish him off.  Instead, he taunts the Mountain and loudly condemns Tywin Lannister, in a speech lasting long enough to give the Mountain time to rally.  If Oberyn had not strutted about so much and had killed the Mountain when he had the chance, Oberyn would have lived to tell the tale of justice done.

Ned Stark is beheaded because he is too stubborn and honorable to seize power after Robert’s death. Cersei told Ned that when you play the game of thrones (willing or not) you win or you die.Ned was not self-serving or ruthlessness enough to seize power and save himself.

Robb Stark married for love rather than fulfill his strategic military vow to marry a Frey girl. He wasn’t merely betrayed by the Boltons and Freys, he betrayed them first. The Young Wolf was brutally killed when the Lannisters used his betrayal to turn his least loyal bannermen against him.

Joffrey Baratheon, was betrothed to marry Margaery Tyrell, but he was such despicable little sadist that her grandmother, the Queen of Thornes, took matters into her own hands.  Queen Olenna Tyrell poisoned the young king and framed Tyrion Lannister for the murderous deed.

In each case, the plot turn was a direct consequence of some action, whether noble or foolish, or selfish. It’s always best if a character is his or her own worst enemy.  Compelling writing and great antagonists find ways to force characters into self-limiting, self-destructive, or self-sabotaging behavior because of fear, pride, stubbornness, or recklessness.

Does it matter if travel times are foreshortened or motivations don’t quite sync?  It does–

For example.

When Dany instructs Yara to take Ellaria and the Sand Snakes back to Dorne to muster an army it doesn’t ring logistically true. Sunspear is located in a secure bay at the southern tip of Westeros. Dragonstone is much further north, and very close to King’s Landing.

To sail all the way to Dragonstone from Slaver’s Bay, Dany would have to pass the Dornish capital. It would be an easy stop along the way, and the perfect place to meet up with Dany’s allies.

So why on earth didn’t she stop there to discuss her plans for invading King’s Landing and taking the Seven Kingdoms? Why sail all the way to Dragonstone if her plan was to then have most of her force sail south again?

Olenna was already in Dorne, forming her own alliance between House Tyrell and the Martells. Dany could have stopped at Sunspear, well protected in the Sea of Dorne, where she could have conveyed plans for her allies to march against King’s Landing.

This way, Yara wouldn’t have had to take Ellaria back to Dorne. They’d be there already! Grey Worm wouldn’t have had to sail all the way to Dragonstone and then all the way back down and around to Casterly Rock, either. He could have just left from Sunspear! Even Olenna would have had an easier time returning to Highgarden to muster her armies.

There was no debate between Tyrion and Dany about stopping in Dorne. This isn’t the consequence of a stubborn Queen, foolishly demanding that her court be held in Dragonstone. It’s sloppy writing.

From a narrative perspective, this choice is contrived. There’s only one reason to do it: To place Yara and Ellaria in danger and have Euron capture them. That is literally the only reason, and it’s the writer’s hand at work, rather than the characters acting consistently with their proven strategic sense. It’s not propelled by their own selfishness, fear, greed, or ego.

For this reason, early on in season 7, tragedy is not consequences of a character’s actions, but rather consequences arranged by the writers to conveniently push the story in a direction they wanted it to go.  This improved in the last two episodes.  But previously there was a lot of moving pieces around the chess board for convenience sake.  It’s a lesson to be learned in your own writing.

To read the whole FORBES ARTICLE click HERE

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

#ThinkpieceThursday – Destructive Lovers

Thinkpiece Thursday

by Guest Contributor Oscar Harding

There are two possible endings to every love story, either the characters are together at the conclusion or they are apart. If characters are to stay together they must work through their differences and, basically, grow up and grow together. When a love story ends tragically either one character can’t grow up or some greater internal force keeps them apart, like honor or duty.

Recent examples of each end are, Barry Jenkins’ 2016 best picture-winner Moonlight, and Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2013 Palme D’or-winner Blue Is The Warmest Colour. Spoilers follow for both films. 

In Moonlight, central character Chiron (Ashton Sanders), discovers his sexuality and his love for friend Kevin (Jaden Piner). They are torn apart by Kevin’s brutal betrayal until their reconciliation after more than a decade.

In Blue Is The Warmest Colour, central character Adèle (Adèle Exarchopolous) has some awkward sexual experiences with men before realizing that enigmatic Emma (Lea Seydoux) is the one for her. But two fall out forever over Adèle’s impulsive affair.

Moonlight is a Power of Love story, and Blue is the Warmest Colour is a Power of Idealism story. In a Power of Love story, the couple ends up together. In a Power of Idealism story, they are separated lovers who are haunted by loss and longing.

In Moonlight, Chiron is a shy alienated Power of Reason character and Kevin is a charming eager to please Power of Ambition character. Kevin’s desperate desire to fit in explodes in violence toward Chiron as Kevin tries to fit into a toxic culture of the thuggish gang masculinity. Only drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), a kindly Power of Love character provides the understanding and nurture that Chiron needs in his social isolation. 

Chiron and Kevin are reunited after years apart. A more mature and humbled Kevin discovers Chiron has protected himself with the outward toughness of a thug. Kevin has found contentment as a fry cook who supports his son.  Kevin’s honesty and tenderness give Chiron what he needs- love, not lust. Their relationship shows both men hope for real happiness.

In Blue is the Warmest Colour, both Adèle and Emma are Power of Idealism characters. They are intense, passionate, and gifted. Emma is a bold vibrant painter and Adele is a talented writer, too afraid to show her work and risk possible rejection.

Emma is devoted to Adèle.  Adele is the great love of her life and muse for her glorious early paintings. She believes Adèle is perfect.   Adele is unwilling to accept Emma’s adoration and be satisfied. Adèle fears Emma will ultimately reject her.  She has an affair when Emma is preoccupied with helping a friend.   When Emma discovers Adele’s betrayal they have an explosive screaming break up.

Years later they meet and a reconciliation is possible. But Emma has completed her emotional journey.  She has grown up and finds contentment and peace in an ordinary domestic life.  This grounds her creative growth and helps her mature as an artist.

Adele cannot move past her torment over her lost “great love’ with Emma.  She is adrift in loss and longing and wants Emma back, or to have an affair at the very least.  Emma refuses.  She cherishes her family. Even though Adele is still her passionate “great love” Emma walks away from her. Adele simply cannot move on.

Power of Idealism stories always end with separated lovers.  Other examples are Bridges of Madison County, Casablanca, or Gone with the Wind.

Power of Love stories always end with the lovers together.  Examples are every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen.

Character is structure. Will your couple live happily ever after despite their differences? Or will the lovers part ways, remembering always that “great love” that got away?

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

#ThinkpieceThursday – Characters Have To Come First

Thinkpiece Thursday

This week I am busy in Copenhagen so I offer an excellent essay by Patrick H Willems.  His video discusses the character problems in the latest batch of DC films.

This essay was released before Wonder Woman, which has come some way to fixing what Willems talks about. With Justice League right around the corner, audiences will be anticipating Wonder Woman’s return.  There is lots of work to be done in the franchise to make the two returning characters and two brand-new characters add and not detract from the sequel.

My own take on Batman: The Dark Knight Rises can be found HERE

#ThinkpieceThursday – Dunkirk: Failure Presented as Triumph

Thinkpiece Thursday

Christopher Nolan’s well-reviewed film, Dunkirk, revisits a part of British history that, with a PR reversal, turned utter failure and defeat into triumph and glory.

British government propaganda spread misleading information after the battle and refused to publicly accept that Dunkirk was an unmitigated disaster of biblical proportions. Winston Churchhill, in private conversation at the time, described Dunkirk as “The greatest British military defeat for many centuries”

“The Dunkirk episode was far worse than was ever realized in Fleet Street (the British newspaper quarter). The men returning to England were so demoralized they threw their rifles and equipment out of railway-carriage windows. Some sent for their wives with their civilian clothes, changed into these, and walked home.””
Director of Statistics at the War Office

Military men who were on the scene recount the situation:

“We were lost for words. I don’t know how to put it. We were just so demoralized and humiliated. I could not believe how well-equipped the Germans were. I had just a few months with a rifle and no proper field training and there they were with all this equipment and organization. They were prepared for war and we weren’t.”
Ivan Daunt, Queen’s Own Royal West Kents

“If you ask anybody what they remember most clearly about (…) Dunkirk they will all mention two things – shame and exhaustion. Shame-as we went back through those white-faced, silent crowds of Belgians, the people who had cheered us and waved to us as we came through their country only four days before, people who had vivid memories of a previous German occupation and whom we were now handing over to yet another. I felt very ashamed. We had driven up so jauntily and now, liked whipped dogs, we were scurrying back with our tails between our legs.” Brigadier Brian Horrocks, BEF

But that’s not what everyone remembers.  What they remember is the brave flotilla of fishing boats, private pleasure craft, and commercial trawlers braving the channel and bringing the boys home when the British Navy couldn’t help.  On the first day of the evacuation, only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, 338,226 out of 400,000 soldiers had been rescued by a haphazard assembly of over 800 boats. Private citizens had rescued the surviving British Expeditionaryy Forces. It’s a better story than shame and defeat caused by strategic incompetence.

The film, Mrs. Miniver, tells the usual side of the story,  Nolan’s film shows a bit more of the untold reality of shame, confusion, and despair but also leans heavily on heroism.  For a full dose of British pluck here is a TMC clip of Mrs. Miniver:

Compare that to scenes from Dunkirk:

#ThinkpieceThursday – Emotion Trumps Reason

Thinkpiece Thursday

 

In the war between emotion and reason, emotion always wins. Always.

Why? Emotion leads to action but thinking leads to conclusions.  If you want to motivate people you must engage their emotions.  You don’t need them to think.  You need them to GO!

This is something the Democrats will have to accept and utilize– again.  Hope, President Obama’s slogan, is a powerful emotion. It drove a wide and varied electorate to the polls and changed history.

Anger and fear are also powerful emotions. Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” implies the country is no longer great and it is, in fact, slipping away.  Outsiders are flooding in.  Social values are changing. “Real” American citizens are being marginalized and pushed out of positions of power.

Those feelings drove unhappy, mostly white, voters to the polls to reclaim their superiority and assert their privilege. They wanted to change history back before the truly marginalized got “uppity” and forgot their place. They wanted a “strong man” to bully and aggressively “put down” those who want social change.

Power of Will characters, like Donald Trump, divide the world into aggressors and victims, hunters and prey, and the strong and the weak. They believe it is better to be feared than to be loved. They never want to be seen as “soft” or vulnerable. They show no mercy to anyone.  But, in the end, it’s all about their own survival.

Power of Will Characters will throw anyone under the bus if it comes down to a threat to their own survival. This is something Trump’s family might want to keep in mind. Love doesn’t figure into the equation.

Tony Soprano, another Power of Will Character, proved this with chilling dramatic effect.  Christopher Molisante is arguably one of the people Tony loved most in this world.  During a time when Christopher relapses and starts taking drugs again, he and Tony get in a car accident.  Christopher is babbling and Tony, afraid his secrets might be betrayed, kills Christopher with his bare hands.

In an earlier episode, Christopher says, “That’s the guy Adrianna, my uncle Tony. The guy I’m going to hell for.” Little did he know Tony would personally send him there. Love is ancillary, promises are meaningless, assurances are worthless, as we’ve seen over and over in Trump’s White House.

Both Tony Soprano and Donald Trump share the characteristics in the infographic below.
The only way to defeat a Power of Will Character is with integrity.  It’s kryptonite to bullies.  Watch Robert Mueller quietly building a case. No leaks. No showboating. He is slowly assembling the evidence. True integrity will win out. I believe in what Theodore Parker said before the Civil War.  I believe in hope.

We cannot understand the moral Universe. The arc is a long one, and our eyes reach but a little way; we cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; but we can divine it by conscience, and we surely know that it bends toward justice. Justice will not fail, though wickedness appears strong, and has on its side the armies and thrones of power, the riches and the glory of the world, and though poor men crouch down in despair. Justice will not fail and perish out from the world of men, nor will what is really wrong and contrary to God’s real law of justice continually endure.

 

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

#ThinkpieceThursday – Nora Ephon Lights the Way

THURSDAY THINKPIECE

 

My good friend Shelley Anderson Meyers published this personal observation in the Huffington Post about Nora Ephron’s effect on her as a writer.  I think the effect of positive powerful female role models cannot be underestimated in the life of a woman writer.

Here’s what Shelley had to say in part:

“When I entered the dark theatre of a smart Nora Ephron romantic comedy a magic spell was cast. I can remember exactly where I was and whom I was with for every one of her movies. I knew brilliance was afoot. I would be touched. I would laugh. I’d believe that men and women really can be friends, that you can meet someone for the first time on a rooftop and happily walk off and live happily ever after, or that can you meet the love of your life over the Internet. Like Nora, I believe in signs, fate, and destiny. I even married a man because he was the only person I had ever heard mention the Seychelles. The mother of romantic comedy, Nora was a cultural barometer who defined the boundaries and meaning of romantic foibles.”

READ the whole piece HERE

#ThinkpieceThursday – The Comedy and Drama of Change

 

CHANGEWriters are advised to write what they know. What writers (and all other human beings) know the most about is change. Living, by definition, is to change. Nothing in life is static. Change and transformation are all around you. Both impact you every day.

You live in an unsettling and constantly changing world. Your world is full of uncertainty, evolving relationships, personal and professional ups and downs and conflicting responsibilities, loyalties, commitments and desires. Your characters should experience their world in exactly the same way.

You know exactly how painful change and transformation can be. You have experienced extreme, dramatic and sometimes excruciating change. Your life has been full of unexpected reversals, complex di- lemmas and difficult growth experiences-and so should the lives of your characters. (And there’s no reason why all this turmoil and pain shouldn’t be hilarious. Great comedians know- If it don’t hurt, it ain’t funny.)

Change doesn’t come easily and it isn’t without opposition. No change ever continues unchecked. Someone or something always stands in the way. Transformation is always upsetting. Emotions run high. The situation and characters are in turmoil. Someone or something resists the change with all his or her might. Who or what stands in the way? Is your character resisting the change or is someone or something resisting the transformation your character is bringing about or is undergoing.”

What kicks this change off? Who or what action changes or transforms your character? What is lost? What is gained? Who opposes the change? What does your character want? What does your character need? What is the cost of either choice? What does your character fear most? How much is your character willing to sacrifice? To what extreme is your character willing to go? The answers to these questions form the emotional core of your story. They also get to the heart of who your character really is. They give depth and meaning to your story structure.

#ThinkpieceThursday – Zig Ziglar Rules for Success

Zig Ziglar recently passed away.  He was a motivational speaker and author.  My father was a Mad Men era ad man.  He always liked Ziglar’s comments and books.  Here are Ziglar’s top ten rules for success– with my comments on how they apply to writing.

10) “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”  This is a great one to remember when rejection feels like failure.  Just because you have a bunch of pitches or scripts that haven’t sold doesn’t make YOU a failure.

9) “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”  When you are pitching a project are you clear about the company’s mandate?  Have you researched their past films or television shows?  How does your project fit in with their goals? How would it enhance their portfolio?  Different producers and production companies have very different taste.  Don’t waste their time or yours by pitching something that doesn’t fit in with what they want to achieve.

8 ) “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.” Write for at least one hour every day. Find ways to keep yourself motivated every day.

7) “There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.” Be a creator as well as a critic.

6) “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”  Does your story have a strong emotional through line?  The definition of entertainment is to feel something.  What does your story make people feel?

5) “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.”  Be hopeful and optimistic, be prepared, and be flexible.  Most people miss opportunities because they can’t see them coming.  The best goal going o into a pitch meeting is to create a relationship, not sell a project.  Getting another meeting should be the objective.  The longer you can engage others enough to ask “tell me more” the better chance you have of success.

4) “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”  To have a friend you must be a friend.  Writing tends to be isolating.  Find ways to be of service to others.  A generous spirit is always repaid ten-fold and in very unexpected ways.

3) “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” Set small achievable incremental goals every day.  Find time to write every day even if it is only for an hour.

2) “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” A good attitude is crucial to being a success and appreciating success once you are there.

1) “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”  This speaks for itself.

Half of being a writer is selling yourself and your projects.  Learning how to sell with authenticity and integrity is crucial to success.  Ziglar is a great mentor.

#ThinkpieceThursday – The Hunger Games & Twilight

Young Adult fiction and the subsequent movie adaptations have been a saving grace for Hollywood over the last few years.  Box office blockbusters based on the Twilight series and The Hunger Games series have smashed opening weekend records.
I thought it would be interesting to compare the characters in the two books and analyze how each story works. The material on The Hunger Games is excerpted from my upcoming book on thrillers, mysteries and suspense story. These are all Power of Truth stories
The Hunger Games is a classic Power of Truth Story Type and protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is a picture perfect Power of Truth Character Type.
Power of Truth stories deal with secrets, lie or conspiracies, what is hidden or concealed, and the larger issues or covert agendas that are secretly manipulating the story world and the characters in it.
In the Hunger Games the Capitol government runs a huge annual televised reality show featuring young contestants who fight to the death.  The fighters are recruited in an involuntary “reaping” from each district. The games are a way to keep the districts separate and in adversarial competition with each other.
The set of the Hunger Games reality show is electronically generated– it is a manufactured 3-D world that doesn’t really exist. The conditions, terrain, rules, and contestants are secretly manipulated to generate the most interesting show and to covertly target contestants the Capitol favors or dislikes.
The games are a metaphor for how the Capitol manipulates and punishes or rewards the various districts as a whole. Nothing is quite real. Nothing is what it seems. Boundaries are artificial and arbitrary. There are hidden traps and pitfalls everywhere. The Capitol sees everything but reveals only what is useful to control the population.
Power of Truth stories also chronicle the most profound and personal betrayals. The story twists and reversals eventually change everything the character believes is true.
Hunger Games contestants form temporary alliances, knowing there can only be one victor. Every one is suspect.  No one can be trusted. Each contestant tries to use others to their own advantage. It is a cut-throat world where loyal is a ploy and betrayal is the norm.
These kind of stories explore the very nature of truth and whether it is ever possible to know or understand the complex mysteries of the human heart.
Katniss Everdeen volunteers in her much younger sister’s place at the annual reaping. Like most Power of Truth Protagonists, Katniss is cautious, wary, and deeply suspicious of everyone and everything. She can be combative and impulsive, shooting an arrow through an apple at the skills demonstration. The apple is in a roasted pig’s mouth in the middle of a feast for the sponsors. Katniss is impatient with the group’s lack of attention.  She can also be silent and withdrawn, keeping her own counsel and playing her cards close to the vest.
Peeta Mellark, the other contestant from her district, is chosen involuntarily. He is scared but seemingly unnaturally happy to be accompanying her. Early on he declares he has been in love with her from afar since they were children.
Katniss can’t be sure Peeta’s declaration isn’t some kind of ploy to gain an advantage or trick her.  Early on in the games he seems to be working against her. Then he saves her and later is willing to die with her and for her. Still she isn’t clear about her feelings for Peeta.  Chronic self-doubting and second guessing are trouble traits for a Power of Truth character. These character don’t trust anyone and don’t even trust themselves.
Complicating matters is Gale Hawthorne, the hunting partner who has helped Katniss prevent her family from dying of starvation in the district.  Katniss has strong feelings for Gale and feels a profound loyalty to him. This makes her doubt her feelings for Peeta.
Gale is a Power of Conscience character and becomes key in the revolution against the Capitol in later books.  Power of Conscience characters are moral crusaders.  They fall to the Dark Side when they became willing to use any means necessary to promote their cause.  Gale does this when he plans an attack on innocents to spread the revolution. He is willing to betray anything and anyone for the good of the cause.
The Hunger Games are a rich, complex Power of Truth world.  The characters have amazing external conflicts and obstacles (in the world of the games), they have intense relationship conflicts (filled with powerful issues of  when loyalty looks like betrayal and betrayal looks like loyalty) and they have deep internal conflict as they struggle between what they want and what they need (and the complex mysteries of the human heart.)
Twilight is a much simpler Power of Love story and less complex characters

katniss-cpYoung Adult fiction and subsequent movie adaptations have been a saving grace for Hollywood over the last few years.  Box office blockbusters based on the Twilight series and The Hunger Games series have smashed opening weekend records as the books topped the best seller charts.

I thought it would be interesting to compare the characters in the two series and analyze how each story works. The material on The Hunger Games is excerpted from my upcoming book on thrillers, mysteries and suspense stories. These are all Power of Truth stories.

The Hunger Games is a classic Power of Truth Story and protagonist, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), is a picture perfect Power of Truth Character Type.

Power of Truth stories deal with secrets, lies, conspiracies, what is hidden or concealed, and the larger issues or covert agendas that are secretly manipulating the story world and the characters in it.

In The Hunger Games, the Capitol government runs an annual televised reality show featuring young contestants who fight to the death.  The fighters are recruited in an involuntary “reaping” from each district. The games are a way to keep the districts separate and in adversarial competition with each other.

The reality show set is electronically generated– it is a manufactured 3-D world that doesn’t really exist. The conditions, terrain, rules, and contestants are secretly manipulated to generate the most interesting show and to covertly target contestants the Capitol favors or dislikes.

The games are a living metaphor for how the Capitol manipulates and punishes or rewards the various districts on a larger scale. Nothing is what it seems. Boundaries in the Panem district states are artificial and arbitrary. There are hidden traps and pitfalls everywhere. The Capitol sees everything but reveals only what is useful to control the population.

Power of Truth stories also chronicle the most profound and personal betrayals. The story twists and reversals eventually change everything the character believes is true.

During the reality show, contestants in The Hunger Games form temporary alliances, knowing there can only be one victor. Every one is suspect.  No one can be trusted. Each contestant tries to use others to his or her own advantage. It is a cut-throat world where loyalty is a ploy and betrayal is the norm.

josh-hutcherson-peeta-mellarkThese kinds of stories explore the very nature of loyalty and betrayal and whether it is ever possible to know or understand the complex mysteries of the human heart. Sometimes loyalty looks like betrayal in the series.  And sometimes betrayal looks like loyalty.

Katniss Everdeen volunteers in her much younger sister’s place at the annual reaping. Like most Power of Truth Protagonists, Katniss is cautious, wary, and deeply suspicious of everyone and everything. She can be combative and impulsive, shooting an arrow through an apple at the skills demonstration. The apple is in a roasted pig’s mouth in the middle of a feast for the sponsors. Katniss is impatient with the group’s lack of attention.  She can also be silent and withdrawn, keeping her own counsel, watching and waiting, and playing her cards close to the vest.

Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the other contestant from her district, is chosen involuntarily at the reaping. He is scared but seemingly unnaturally happy to be accompanying Katniss. Early on he declares he has been in love with her from afar since they were very young children.

Katniss can’t be sure Peeta’s declaration of love isn’t some kind of ploy to gain advantage or trick her.  Early on in the games he seems to be working against her. Then he saves her and later is willing to die with her and for her. Still, she isn’t clear about her feelings for Peeta.  Chronic self-doubting and second guessing are trouble traits for a Power of Truth character. These characters don’t fully trust anyone and don’t even trust themselves.

movies_the_hunger_games_gale_hawthorneComplicating matters is Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), the hunting partner who has helped Katniss save her family from starvation in the district.  Katniss has strong feelings for Gale and feels a profound loyalty to him. This makes her doubly question her feelings for Peeta.

Gale is a Power of Conscience character and becomes key in the revolution against the Capitol in later books.  Power of Conscience characters are often moral crusaders.  They fall to the Dark Side when they become willing to use any means necessary to promote their cause.  Gale does this when he plans an attack on innocents to help publicize and spread the revolution. He is willing to betray anything and anyone for the greater good of the cause.

The Hunger Games creates a rich, complex Power of Truth world.  The characters have amazing external conflicts and obstacles (in the treacherous and shifting world of the games), they have intense relationship conflicts (filled with powerful issues of  loyalty and betrayal) and they have deep internal conflict struggling between what they want and what they need (and the complex mysteries of love, loss, and hope). For more on Power of Truth stories and characters CLICK HERE

bella-swan-twilightTwilight is a much simpler Power of Love story featuring far less complex characters.  Power of Love stories are about lovers or partners who appear to be antagonistic, opposites, or entirely inappropriate for each other. The adversarial partners not only manage to bring out the worst in each other but also the best. The lovers grow and change through the conflict and questions in their relationship. How much must I change to accommodate you? How far can I compromise before I lose myself?

In Twilight, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is a high-school girl who falls in love with a 104 year old vampire, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).  He is powerfully attracted to her but fears he or his family will harm her. Bella’s blood is sweetly irresistible.

Bella’s love and her confidence in Edward’s restraint is unshakable.  She  refuses to heed his repeated warnings to stay away from him. She stumbles into harms way several times but Edward always swoops in to save her. As a result, when Edward leaves her, Bella seeks out danger to attract his attention.

Bella is a Power of Love character. Throughout the series she is willing to risk injury, death, and the loss of her immortal soul to be with Edward.  When he hurts her while making love to her as a human, Bella refuses to be deterred and wants him to make love to her again.  When she almost dies carrying his child she refuses to save herself and get an abortion. She is so damaged by the birth that finally there is no choice but to turn her into a vampire or surrender her to death. Bella does almost all of the changing and accommodating.

Power of Love characters see their own value reflected in the eyes of their love object. Their philosophy might be stated: “I am nothing without you.” (“And you are nothing without me.”)

20100730010244!Edward_CullenPower of Love characters believe the way to get love and keep love is to be helpful, useful, loving, kind and, above all, necessary to the other person. They fear that if you don’t put others first you won’t have good relationships. If you don’t have close personal relationships, then life isn’t worth living. Bella always puts Edward first, over her safety and over her life itself. For more on Power of Love characters CLICK HERE

Edward Cullen is a Power of Idealism character. He is a poetic, musical, and sensitive young man who is in love with someone forbidden to him.  This longing for what one cannot have is a hallmark of a Power of Idealism character. In contrast, Bella always believes they will eventually be together.  Edward’s appearance, scent, and voice are enormously seductive to Bella, so much so that he occasionally mesmerizes her by accident. She becomes even more compliant and swooning.  Edward’s intensity and his rebellious, slightly dangerous, nature is also typical of Power of Idealism characters. For more on Power of Idealism characters CLICK HERE

jacob-black-stillJacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a shape-shifting member of a local Indian tribe, also competes for Bella’s love.  He is a Power of Conscience character.  He is a fierce defender of what is right and what is traditional. Yet he overcomes his tribe’s hostility to vampires to come to Bella’s aid even after he is rejected by her.  Power of Conscience characters feel a profound sense of responsibility and duty toward others. They value what is the fair, honest, and decent thing to do. For more on Power of Conscience character CLICK HERE

Unlike The Hunger Game, which fully explores Power of Truth territory and deals with many complex levels of conflict, Twilight falls short in creating a well articulated conflict-driven Power of Love story.  Here are the Twilight series shortcoming as I see them:

1. Love interests in a romance should take an instant dislike, have a deep distrust, or be separated by major philosophical, or personal differences. Love interests should have opposite world views and views on what life and love is or should be. They should not agree on anything. Their values should be diametrically opposed. Bella is immediately attracted to Edward and he to her. The forbidden nature of their love story in Twilight has to do only with physical or external differences rather than deep  differences in values, philosophy, or world view.

2. Both love interests must grow or change through their relationship with one another. Something profound should be missing in each love interest’s life, character, and/or personality. This missing piece is an important personal deficiency leading to overall unhappiness. The problem isn’t just that the character is missing someone to love. It should be key to his or her genuine difficulties in life. Nothing, other than love, is missing in either Bella’s or Edward’s personality or character. Neither character needs the other to grow or change.  Bella simply wears Edward down in her insistence to become a vampire. Her transformation is almost entirely physical.  Edward has little real transformation at all.

Bella & Edward3.  In order for a love story to work well the lovers have to overcome obstacles on three levels.

a) The external forces, that keep the lovers apart (i.e. differences in culture, class, status, ethnicity, race, gender, age, religion, or social convention). Twilight gets this right and a human and vampire union is strictly forbidden. It is punishable by death.

b) The conflict with others, that keeps the lovers apart. There is some resistance from Edward’s family but it is fairly easily overcome. There is no real resistance from her own family, because her father is generally unaware of the Cullen family’s heritage.

c) The internal forces, that prevent the lovers from getting together (internal values that make each lover question and reject the initial advances that each receives from the other). This most important obstacle is entirely missing in Twilight. The focus is almost entirely on the physical external difficulties. There is nothing within Bella that makes her struggle with her choice.  Edward struggles more internally but again his dilemma mostly revolves around the vampire-human conundrum.

Romances work best when there is a strong personal impediment posed by a relationship with an appropriate mate. An appropriate mate is a person who, for a variety of external reasons, SHOULD be a perfect match but isn’t.  Jacob also vies for Bella’s love but he’s not a perfect external match (being a shape-shifter) and he is a much weaker contender than Edward. Early on in the first book Jacob is not fully realized as a character. He becomes more important in later books but never stands a credible chance of winning Bella.

In Moonstruck, a near perfect romance, the above three elements work wonderfully. Cher (Power of Love) is no-nonsense, practical, caring, and responsible about all her obligations. This is demonstrated in the opening scenes where she visits her bookkeeping clients. She is so practical she is about to settle for a man she doesn’t love but who is a solid member of the community. During a very unromantic proposal he tells her: “You take care of me.” What she needs is passion, inspiration, and the fiery spark of life.

Nickolas Cage (Power of Idealism) has passion and fire to the extreme. He needs someone to provide more of a stable base and an even keel. He needs to let go of his nearly operatic anger and bitterness and move on in his life. The two lovers challenge and learn from each other. Their exchange of gifts makes each a better, more well-rounded, and complete person.

In a classic love story two imperfect halves come together to form a more perfect whole. Each character brings something that is vitally necessary to the other’s overall well-being and completeness. That critical exchange of gifts is obtained through clash and conflict with the love interest.

Nevertheless the Twilight characters are well enough drawn to compel readers.  Emotion and character development pretty much always trumps plot and story structure, in my view.  That said– The Hunger Games has completely eclipsed Twilight at the box office and on the best seller list. The Hunger Games series has great characters and a rich, complex, well realized Power of Truth story structure—that is an unbeatable combination.

Having problems with your story? Read How to Evaluate Stories and find your story problems and fix them fast. CLICK HERE

#ThinkpieceThursday – The Role of Impulse in Creating Three Dimensional Characters

41i3GmuVS1L._SL500_AA300_Here is an interesting study from Chris Mooney, Author of The Republican War on Science and The Republican Brain.  The quote doesn’t just speak to politics but how three dimensional characters are created.

Here’s the bottom line: An increasing body of science suggests that we disagree about politics not for intellectual or philosophical reasons, but because we have fundamentally different ways of responding to the basic information presented to us by the world. These are often ways of which we are not even aware–automatic, subconscious–but that color all of our perceptions, and that effectively drive us apart politically.
What’s more, what is true for how we come to our opinions about politics is also, assuredly, true for how we approach “facts” that are perceived to have some bearing on the validity of our political opinions–whether those fac

Here’s the bottom line: An increasing body of science suggests that we disagree about politics not for intellectual or philosophical reasons, but because we have fundamentally different ways of responding to the basic information presented to us by the world. These are often ways of which we are not even aware– automatic, subconscious– but that color all of our perceptions, and that effectively drive us apart politically.

What’s more, what is true for how we come to our opinions about politics is also, assuredly, true for how we approach “facts” that are perceived to have some bearing on (or threaten) the validity of our political opinions–whether those facts are scientific, economic, historical, or even theological in nature.

In the Emotional Toolbox approach to character, a three-dimensional character actually has three dimensions

1) Immediate Response- where the character goes first emotionally

2) Long-Term Orientation- the character’s general philosophy on life and love

3) Strategic Approach- how the character plans and works to achieve a goal

In this post I will consider a character’s Immediate Response.  This is how a character viscerally reacts to an unexpected challenge, opportunity, or threat. (For example aggressive questions at a Press Conference.)

A character’s Immediate Response is where the character goes first emotionally. This response is a character’s automatic reaction when caught off-guard, questioned, or challenged unexpectedly.

110223_rick_santorum_ap_328For example, Power of Conscience characters instantly decide if someone or something is good and true— or bad, unjust, unfair or inhumane. Their first response is to attack any challenge, opportunity, or threat which they believe involves impropriety, immorality or wrong-doing.

These characters are instinctively propelled forward by outrage and moral indignation. Their judgment and action is swift and immutable. They refuse to compromise or back down. They are relentless in confronting what they perceive as evil, corrupt, bad, or ethically unacceptable.

Rick Santorum, a Power of Conscience character, is known for his impulsive comments and passing swift judgement when presented with anything that might violate his standards of decency, ethics, or principles.

mitt_romney_ap110211128027_244x183Alternatively, Power of Truth characters instinctively step back or withdraw to observe, consider, or analyze an unexpected challenge, opportunity, or threat.  When presented with a situation, good or bad, their first response is to step back and consider what the situation really means.

These characters want to be certain that they know what is actually going on as opposed to what appears to be happening. They suspect and try to detect what the real motives are or what is hidden from the superficial assessment. It’s the measured MBA mindset as an Initial Response.

Mitt Romney, a Power of Truth character, is measured, cool, and distant in his response to anything.  He has been roundly criticized for his stiff off-the-cuff remarks and lack of passion when responding to challenges, questions, or difficulty. He is a cautious man who constantly hedges his bets, backtracks, and equivocates.

barack-obama-picture-2On the other hand, Power of Imagination characters instinctively lead from their heart in any unexpected situation. These character feel they can and will connect with something bigger or more extraordinary than themselves. They don’t have to ponder, think or decide. They are compelled to embrace others, bring them along to share their vision, and join their quest.

Barack Obama, a Power of Imagination character, has been criticized for instinctively seeking compromise and collaboration with even those unalterably opposed to him personally, all his policies, and everything he believes in.  Obama, in a crisis, believes in creating “teaching moments” in an attempt to establish common ground and bring people together. His first instinct is to promote a larger vision and inspire others to follow him as a unified whole out any emergency.

These Immediate Reactions are powerful automatic responses to any situation. These responses clearly distinguish characters in the political area and in every other aspects of their lives.