Before we continue with our regular progamming here at Your Write to Live, I wanted to share with you a short film on child abuse called ReMoved. It’s about a young girl named Zoey who is put through various foster homes, and her struggle to find solidarity in her life and self worth despite of the abusive parents she comes across.
Still continuing in the spirit of the Crafting a Character Series, I thought this would be a good video to share because it accurately depicts the thought process a child’s mind goes through when growing up in a hostile environment. And depending on what neurolinguistic reasoning a person’s inner dialogue is dominated by, that will greatly affect how they turn out in the future.
Although at times, the narration seems too poetic and adult for a child to be speaking through, the sentiment is all the same: alienation, humiliation, and neglect can take its toll on a child.
The self attack and the self erasure children are too often taught to internalize is one of the main contributing factors to the world’s problems. People who weren’t raised to value themselves and never try to learn self efficacy in their adult life, in spite of their trauma, are usually the ones who create conflict and fail to take responsibility fortheir lives. Most especially when they do not pursue self-knowledge.
It’s because of this injustice that I am passionate about writing my current novel in progress It Starts at Home, so that, just like this short film, the message gets out: children are a minority that we need to develop the utmost empathy and respect for.
We’ve taken a look at how our present lives are defined by our pasts, and to come full circle, we will delve into breaking the shackles of history and achieving freedom in the future.
As always, characters are driven by Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. All three keys play an important part into unlocking the potential that resides in all of us, fictional and real people alike. Here is how GMC is considered in a character profile:
The First Day of the Rest of Your Life
Desires drive all action, purpose, and intention. Having a clear understanding of your desires is fundamental to understanding what steps you need to take toward leading a fulfilling life, as well as providing value to the rest of the world.
Even if your initial desire is what propels you into action, the desire may change over time or evolve to something else based on how much you want to achieve. Sometimes you do get what you want and realize you desire so much more than you ever realized.
Such is the case for Morgan from #16Things I Thought Were True by Janet Gurtler. After her mother suffers a heart attack, Morgan gathers the courage and tenacity to ask about the biological father that was absent throughout her childhood.
At the start of the story, Morgan sets out to gain 5000 Twitter followers, while having 0 friends in the physical world because she feels alienated after having an embarassing video of her dancing in boy’s underwear going viral.
Due to certain circumstances, Morgan is forced to allow two of her co-workers, Adam and Amy, to accompany her on a road trip to seek out her biological father.
Although confronting him is her initial desire (as well as amassing a ton of Twitter followers), Morgan develops a bond with Adam and Amy; two co-workers she had barely liked or understood at a personal level before their heart warming–and sometimes gut wrenching–road trip together. Her true desire all along had been garnering connectivity, and it didn’t have to come from her long lost father.
What are your main desires? Have you achieved them only to realize there was something more meaningful out there? What steps are you taking today in order to achieve these goals in the future?
Another important aspect of characterization is having strengths that contrast a character’s vulnerabilities. Many protagonists are victims of circumstance which drives us to sympathize with them, but in order for us to even want to root for them, they need to have major strengths that can help make them more appealing.
In the hit series How I Met Your Mother, Ted Mosby goes on a seemingly unending search for his soul mate. He starts off as a desperate lovelorn who just can’t catch a break because his desire often becomes a part of his major flaws. Having this desire starts off as a way to avoid himself and have him develop the mentality that he is nothing without somebody to love.
However, throughout the course of this dramatic rom-com, we learn that he has a big heart and he’s deeply invested in his friends. The love that he provides for them transforms into love for himself and discovering his own value as an individual before meeting The Mother/Tracy McConnell.
Ted Mosby’s strength is his ability to love and his hopeful spirit, but it took transmuting it for himself and for what he already had in order to achieve his goal; meeting a woman who more or less resembles a combination of all his friends.
What are your major strengths? How do they play a role in helping you achieve your desires?
Perpetual Passion and Main Mission:
The mark of a strong character is intertwining their personal desires with their major strength in order to contribute something to the world at large. People who want to make a difference in the world, or at least in their immediate world (interpersonal relationships), are always challenged by people who want to keep things the same and not improve the state of the world.
Having a mission and commiting to it is admirable because it’s the ultimate test of character to offer your gift to the world, despite of its initial reluctance to accept it–when ironically, the world may so desperately be in need of your gift.
Batman, despite all his violent brutality serves as a good example for a character rooted in their principles. He’s committed to fighting injustice, but will never ever kill criminals.
He believes anybody can be redeemed and sees the possible good in others all despite of the hatred he has for his parents’ murderer (which changes depending on which reiteration of the Batman story you read, watch, or play).
I could just as easily use a character who embodies the purist level of virtue, but I think Batman serves as the best example because he’s still fundamentally flawed being so addicted to enacting violence, and only stopping short of actual murder. It’s debatable whether or not he creates more villains than he puts away, but one thing is for sure: he is committed to his perpetual passion for fighting crime as his main mission.
What are you passionate about? What’s your main mission? What mark do you want to leave in the world and why do you think it’s important?
One of the most common challenges in writing is the dreaded “Writer’s Block” phenomenon. It’s when you just don’t feel like writing for a variety of reasons, some of which include; lack of inspiration, doubt in one’s own abilities, and real life just to name a few. Perhaps in the future I will cover Writer’s Block in more depth, but for now I would like to present to you a helpful exercise that helps in combatting this wall of infinite confidence destruction.
The Free Fall Journal is where you set a timer for yourself (from 10-30 minutes) and write to your heart’s content until the timer ends. The goal here is not to be fancy or eqloquent in your writing, rather free in expression as you fall into the page and simply let your thoughts out without stopping or editting in the process.
Whether you’re writing in long hand or typing into a document, never lift your pen off the page (except between words and punctuation of course) or your palms off your keyboard. Just write whatever comes to your stream of consciousness, even if it’s “I don’t want to write now, this is stupid. What the hell is that Marlon guy talking about?”
Writers and non-writers alike suffer from the plague of perfectionism, and writing a Free Fall Journal is a way of saying to hell with perfection as you allow yourself to write whatever feels natural. Maybe what comes to mind right away is gold or maybe it’s absolute crap. Who cares?!
The point is to feel free to express yourself without censorship and without self editting. We live in such a self-conscious society where we constantly worry about what people think of us, and sometimes we go insofar as to filter our own thoughts and think that they are worthless. Well, as long as you’re not planning anything malicious against another human being and are actually considering doing it, then feel free to think what you like. There’s no such thing as Thought Police except for in our own minds. Set your thoughts free! Try writing a Free Fall Journal.
How to apply this to your life:
Even if you’re not a writer, this exercise will help you feel comfortable with your own thoughts. You can write whatever you like; a delicious (or disgusting) recipe, manual instructions, a journal entry, or even the beginning of a story. The possibilities are endless. Remember, no one ever has to read it but you, and you might not even want to keep it, though I suggest you do for interesting re-reading purposes. You’ll be surprised by your own train of thought, sometimes even scared, and often for me, I get amused by what I’ve written.
Why this exercise is important:
As I mentioned earlier, we do live in a self-conscious society, usually afraid of outside opinions. Take back your dignity and self respect by trying out a Free Fall Journal. The only judge is you and it’s up to you to be fair, harsh, or even nice to yourself. A Free Fall Journal is a place where you can feel safe being unfilitered and unexamined by others, unless if you want to share it with people, that’s fine too.
So try it on for size, give yourself 10-30 minutes a day to free fall and you’ll be amazed by how freeing it is to your self esteem. I personally free fall to let myself write the stupidiest, incoherent, sometimes most vile crap just so I know it’s okay to express myself in a safe and creative way. Give yourself the same luxury!