We’re giving our characters an Extreme Character Makeover over the past month – check out these posts (Nailing the Character Change Journey, and the KEY to building character motivation for change). But nailing true Character change is hard to SHOW, right? Because so often change happens in the inside. . .or does it?
At MBT, we teach the Story Equation – the idea that all character’s start their journey propelled by a Dark Moment Story, or some event in their past (recent or early on) that has created in their psyche a fear, a lie and a wound.
From there, the character change begins, moving your character from the LIE he believes, toward his Black Moment (Greatest Fear) his epiphany (TRUTH) and finally that Final Battle, or the thing he can do at the end that he can’t at the beginning.
But here’s the problem.
While all that looks like INTERNAL change, it must be displayed on the page as EXTERNAL action.
So, how to you show this change?
Here’s the TRICK: Give your character a FLAW.
See, we all have flaws, and if you look closely at them, you’ll see that they are most often a result of our fears. A mother fears her children getting hurt, so she overprotects. A man fears failing in his job, so he becomes a workaholic. A woman fears being rejected, so she molds herself into being someone she isn’t. A man fears getting his heart broken so he plays the field fast and loose, never settling down.
Our fears create our flaws, and our flaws are visible.
However, as our fears are slowly overtaken by truth, our flaws begin to change, to be healed.
So, too for our character in his journey. When our character begins to develop skills to face his fears, his flaws will begin to be healed. During Act 2, he makes a choice contrary to his current behavior because his is no longer afraid. And, after the epiphany, he is able to overcome his flaw and embody his triumphant final act. He is able to “storm the castle,” or declare his love, or take the throne – whatever action he couldn’t do at the beginning because of his fears.
But to do any of this, your character must have that Dark Moment Story to start his journey. Without this, you have no greatest fear, and thus, nothing to build his flaw on. You’re simply picking a flaw from thin air. In other words, your character needs a good reason for his flaw.
Here’s a bonus trick:
- Men’s fears often stem from the past, something they don’t want repeated.
- Women’s fears often stem from the future, or something they are trying to stop from happening (or something they are trying to make happen, because they fear it won’t).
So, when you’re developing the FLAW, look at the FEAR and determine the external behavior motivated by that fear. Then, show your character’s change by seeing the flaw at the beginning, show him slightly overcoming the flaw in the middle, and finally stepping into healing in the finale.
And remember, it all starts with the Dark Moment Story.
Go! Write Something Brilliant!
P.S. If you need help plotting your story, starting your story, or even getting the story on the page, we have a RARE, FREE Open House this Thursday, May 7, 2015. Get a rare sneak peek at what goes on behind the scenes at MBT, as we continue our Build-A-Book series, diving deep on the Inciting Incident and Telling Yourself the Story!
P.P.S And May the Fourth be with you.